It is little over two years since Chinese tyre manufacturer Sailun established their Birmingham-based European office and started to refine their truck tyre range for the European market, but according to Martin West, Managing Director of Sailun Europe, the brand has made excellent progress in establishing a solid product range and good distribution and is now looking to push on by increasing its range further and developing more direct contacts within its fleet customers.
Sailun is a relatively new brand in global terms, having been launched as recently as 2002. However, having evolved out of the tyre equipment manufacturer, Mesnac, it has developed quickly, first establishing itself in Europe in 2008 with a car tyre range. Having recently acquired shares in two other Chinese tyre manufacturers (100% of Shenyang Peace and 49% of Shandong Jinyu) and being in the process of completing a brand new tyre plant in Vietnam, which together with the company’s existing factory in Qingdao, would increase truck tyre production to 2.5 million tyres per annum, Sailun is fast becoming a prominent international brand.
The European office in Birmingham was created in 2011 to manage distribution in Europe, and according to West, initial focus has been on developing a network of quality distributors on a country by country basis. In the UK distribution is split by product type, so car tyres are handled by Bond International and truck tyres by the Liverpool-based wholesaler, Kirkby Tyres, who also act as the UK agent for another Chinese brand, Double Coin.
Says West: “We have been very happy with Kirkby Tyres. They have positioned Sailun correctly as a premium budget tyre, distributing it through new channels. We have had good feedback so far and have co-operated well with them to increase our B2B marketing presence, for example through the strong profile we were able to portray at this year’s CV Show.”
Martin West admits that it is still early days in the UK for the Sailun brand, though, and he emphasises that the expansion of the company’s product range has been just as important as the development of the distribution network. Over the last two years, Sailun has increased its range of truck and bus tyres significantly, now offering a total of 50 SKUs for the European market with a further 17 to be introduced over the course of the next 10 months.
Says West; “The first phase of the new product range expansion will commence in November this year with the road testing of seven new tyres in anticipation of a February 2014 launch. The next 10 tyres will be launched in a rolling programme to be completed by the third quarter of 2014.”
With the initial phase of the development of the Sailun brand now largely complete, Martin West is now looking to make the next step forward. This, he says, will include the extension of contacts with fleet customers and the gathering of clear data on tyre performance to support the distributor. This process is already underway, backed up by regular visits from factory engineers to customers, and substantial amounts of data have already been collected. In addition, the company is looking to increase technical support on a European basis and is currently looking at strengthening its team in that respect.
The same is true of retreading. Says West; “We are aware that retreadability is important and are talking to a number of retreaders about testing the product. To elevate the brand to the next level we will need to make sure that retreading is included in our overall strategy. But it’s important to make sure we can walk before we can run – so we are also continuing to focus on supporting our distributors as they develop the brand in the market place. With this in mind, we are also contemplating opening a warehouse in France in order to provide a buffer stock for our distributors across Europe.”
According to West, Sailun have achieved good numbers from a standing start but the company has now reached a watershed moment from where it will need to increase fleet contacts and actively develop its presence on B2B marketing side. With that in mind, we can expect to see a lot more of Sailun in the years to come.