Giti Tire to start advertising at 246 mph

Eric Latino’s pro-modified Camaro drag car has a Giti Tire logo on its hood, part of the tire company’s efforts to increase its U.S. brand awareness.
Eric Latino’s pro-modified Camaro drag car has a Giti Tire logo on its hood, part of the tire company’s efforts to increase its U.S. brand awareness. provided by Giti Tire

When Eric Latino first contacted Giti Tire, all he was looking for was a set of truck tires, preferably at a discounted price. He wanted to help offset the cost of transporting his Camaro pro-modified dragster.

As a Firestone-Bridgestone dealer, Latino was familiar with Giti’s reputation.

One call led to another, and Latino got his new GT Radial heavy duty truck tires – and more.

Latino and Giti are negotiating a deal that would give two companies – already well-known in the automotive industry – a higher profile, but also, more importantly, draw more customers and fans.

Giti is a sponsor of Latino’s Go Green racing team for the 2016 National Hod Rod Association’s pro-modified season. It is part of Giti’s marketing efforts to introduce itself to American consumers.

Giti, which is building its first American plant in Richburg, makes tires under the GT Radial, Primewell and Dextero brands domestically. It does not sell a “Giti” tire in the United States or Canada.

The Singapore-based company has seven tire plants in China, making 140,700 tires a day and employing 19,000. It also owns almost 50 percent of Gajah Tunggal tire company in Indonesia. The combined output of the Chinese and Indonesian plants makes Giti the 10th largest tire company in the world by production volume

When he’s not racing, Latino is the owner of Global Emissions Systems Inc. or GESI, a Canadian company that makes catalytic and muffler technology capable of reducing emissions for any type of engine, using any type of fuel. His “cats,” short for catalytic converters, are sold worldwide.

Latino’s environmental business fits nicely with Giti’s corporate strategy. Giving back to the environment is one of Giti’s core values. The company has invested $1 million in reforesting projects in Indonesia and China and helped fund more than 10,000 operations in China to remove cataracts from the eyes of its people.

So what should Giti expect from its new, 246-mph billboard that covers the quarter mile in less than six seconds?

The green hood of Latino’s Camaro has Giti’s elephant logo. So, too, does the tractor trailer rig that takes the Go Green racing team to places such as Houston; Las Vegas; Englishtown, N.J; Bristol, Tenn.; and, yes, Charlotte.

In September Latino finished second at the zMAX Dragway in Concord, losing by one one-thousandth of a second to Danny Rowe in the pro-modified final, 5.94 to 5.95. He finished 11th in the final pro-mod standings.

Giti announced its sponsorship of Latino at the recent SEMA show in Las Vegas before 300 of its dealers.

Events such as the SEMA show – the premier automotive specialty products trade event, which draws the industry’s brightest minds and hottest products to one place – could be where Giti sees its biggest return on its drag-racing investment.

Every time the Go Green team appears at a NHRA track, it’s a chance for Giti to invite local dealers, said Bill Doyle, vice president of Performance Research of Newport, R.I. The firm measures the effectiveness of corporate sponsorships.

It won’t hurt that the average attendance at NHRA events is 100,000 people per weekend.

The result is more consumer awareness, which could result in more consumer loyalty.

The Giti-Latino relationship could have even stronger Carolina ties.

GESI supplies catalytic converters as original equipment for the Freightliner trucks built in Spartanburg. Latino said he is considering building a GESI plant in North Carolina to be close to his clients. Possible sites are Concord, Mooresville or Statesville, he said. Statesville could be the front runner, as Latino already has a business relationship with Kooks Headers & Exhaust of Statesville, which makes products for just about every kind of racing.

The Carolina manufacturing facility will likely also be where Latino locates his racing headquarters – another chance for Giti to strengthen its ties with dealers and fans.

Go Green, Go Giti, Go fast – a secret of NHRA success for 2016?

Don Worthington: 803-329-4066, @rhherald_donw