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HomeLEISURE DRIVEA WILD COAST ADVENTURE WITH GENERAL TIRES

A WILD COAST ADVENTURE WITH GENERAL TIRES

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With a comprehensive product portfolio spanning 4×4, SUV, passenger and van tyres that are locally manufactured at the Continental Tyre South Africa plant in Gqeberha, General Tires has a rich heritage in South Africa. We sampled the latest Grabber tyres on a Wild Coast adventure and visited the Gqeberha plant to celebrate 75 years of the brand in the country. 

The Gqeberha plant is the only facility in the world to produce this complete range, both for the domestic market and export to key global markets – and it is set to become the global production and export hub for the General Tire brand’s passenger and van range.

The company has a rich heritage in South Africa as it celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, having been founded in 1947 as the General Tire and Rubber Company. It was acquired by Continental in 1998 and renamed Continental Tyre South Africa, and currently employs more than 1,000 people across its manufacturing, marketing and sales operations.

In a previous edition, we recounted how we travelled to the quadripoint where four African countries meet in an Isuzu D-Max shod with General Grabber AT3 tyres to celebrate this milestone, as well as 50 years of the Isuzu KB and two decades of its D-Max successor.

Our trip was also an acknowledgement of the growing exports of these locally built one-tonne bakkies, as well as tyres from the only Continental tyre plant in Africa to countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia, and into Africa and around the world,

The plant recently embarked on a programme to localise 100% of the General Tire passenger and van range. This project is almost complete and will soon result in the plant being the only facility in the world producing these tyres for local sales and exports around the world.

The General Tire range comprises the popular and capable Grabber 4×4 and SUV tyres, the accomplished Altimax passenger tyre range, and the trusted Eurovan commercial tyres – with a mix of locally produced and imported sizes. However, there has been a significant shift towards local production.

A total of 39 sizes of the Altimax tyre range are currently available from 14 to 19-inch diameters across the entry-level Altimax Comfort, the mid-range Altimax One and the sporty Altimax One S, and the Eurovan commercial vehicle tyre line-up features 13 sizes from 14 to 16” diameters.

Grabber 4×4 and SUV Tyres

Renowned for outstanding all-around performance, durability and value for money, the award-winning General Grabber AT3 has become one of the most popular replacement tyre choices, complemented by exports to several key global markets. A selection of primarily large-diameter sizes, from 19” and up, are imported.

Featuring ‘TracGen’, an open shoulder design with traction ridges for improved grip on all surfaces, and sipes arranged at different angles to enhance water dispersion properties, the AT3 range also uses a robust rubber compound called ‘DuraGen’, providing excellent cut and chip resistance, while ‘ComfortBalance’ technology gives them a good balance between ride comfort and off-road grip.

To showcase its recently launched Grabber ATX – a more aggressive all-terrain tyre that takes the impressive all-round capabilities of the AT3 to new levels – General Tire invited us to experience the ATX and AT3 range during a two-day off-road adventure on the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape Province.

Starting in Gqeberha, the convoy of Isuzu D-Max V-Cross and LSE bakkies shod with either ATX or AT3 tyres, snaked its way over the Fish River towards the Wild Coast. Usually, the route would start at Morgan Bay with a ferry trip across the river, but with recent floods in the area, water levels were not ideal for this.

Driving through the small villages and clusters of brightly coloured homes, we encountered some of the most scenic landscapes in the country. The tyres performed exceptionally well over the rocky obstacles and river crossings along the rugged off-road trail.

The new ATX tyres, along with a stand-out design and more rugged design and construction, feature distinctive raised white lettering that will appeal to off-road enthusiasts. Four Grabber ATX sizes are currently available from 16 to 18-inch diameters. It is also manufactured locally for export to the US.

The AT3 is available in 31 standard construction sizes, spanning 15 to 22-inch diameters, and is original equipment (OE) fitment on the locally assembled Isuzu D-Max LSE and V-Cross models. The heavy-duty construction Grabber AT3 LT (light truck) range is available in 21 sizes spanning 15 to 18-inches.

The AT3 LTs impressed on the route with its rugged construction, sure-footed grip, durability and enhanced puncture resistance in the most punishing conditions; and also proved to be quiet on the open road. In comparison, the new ATX tyres showed their mettle in more muddy and extreme conditions but were slightly noisier on-road.

During our plant tour, we were also shown how the outer white lettering is added to add eye-catching appeal. Available also from the plant is the Grabber GT Plus, designed for modern sport utility vehicles (SUVs) to provide superb on-road performance, good wet grip and high mileage. On offer are 38 sizes ranging from 15 to 21-inch diameters. 

Our trip with the General Grabber AT3 and ATX tyres again proved why these tyres are so popular, with outstanding all-around performance and durability. With production ramping up, it also gives the local plant a central role in the global manufacturing footprint for General Tire, which enhances the sustainability of the business and keeps it up to date with the latest manufacturing technologies to produce world-class tyres.

Report by FERDI DE VOS | Images © COLIN MILEMAN / CONTINENTAL TYRES

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