TAICHUNG, Taiwan (BRAIN) — Kenda is planting roots in Germany in order to raise the profile of the Taiwanese tire maker in Europe. Kenda’s headquarters are near Taichung, Taiwan, and its North American operation is outside Columbus, Ohio, but European business has always been handled through distributors in individual companies.
“Unfortunately, the brand from a marketing and image standpoint is left 100 percent up to the distributor and it can be hard to get a consistent brand story across,” said Jake Scott, Kenda’s national sales manager in the U.S., who is working on the European expansion.
Scott travels to Germany early next month to start interviewing candidates for a marketing position and an OEM sales role with the hope of having a new office in Munich up and running by the first of the year. By being in Munich, the office will be close to members of the influential German media. Cycling magazines carry significant weight among consumers in Germany and building a relationship with various publications can help create pull for the brand from consumers, Scott said.
A European presence should also help increase spec with OEMs that tend to lean heavily toward local brands.
“The only way to compete with Schwalbe, Continental, Vittoria, Michelin is to go actually play the game there,” Scott said, speaking outside the Tempus Hotel Thursday during Taichung Bike Week. Being on the ground in Europe will also lead to the development of product lines tailored specifically for the market there.
Kenda already sells a significant amount of tires in Europe—in fact it’s the company’s second largest market behind Asia—but it’s largely entry-level and brand image is virtually nonexistent. More than a decade ago, Kenda opened an office in England for the same purposes, but executives in Taiwan decided to close it when sales numbers didn’t match their expectations.
Scott is hoping the head office will be more patient with results this time around.
“That’s one of the biggest challenges, one has already closed, showing the older (management) group that just because the numbers aren’t changing right away we don’t have to shut down and move out.”