The UK economy grew 0.6 per cent in the October-to-December period. Taking the year as a whole, the economy grew 2 per cent, 10 per cent slower than the growth of 2.2 per cent achieved in 2015. Good news, I hear you say. But, as with many things in life, the details tell a more complicated story. Many sources, such as the BBC, contend that this better-than-expected growth is because of increased consumer spending during the last quarter of the year. However, it is also worth pointing out that UK car production achieved a 17-year high in 2016, according to the latest figures published by SMMT. This comes at the same time that the motor manufacturer’s association reported new car registrations of just under 2.7 million for the year – itself another record. This being the case, it is worth taking a closet look at the figures and the messages give us in the inextricably linked tyre sector as well as the economy as a whole.
New year. New diary. New balance sheet. New company? In this respect, 2016 got off to a flying start. No sooner had the year begun than we received news of some high profile, three-digit-million pound mergers and acquisitions. The first and the largest was the acquisition of well-known garage data supplier Autodata (see page 32, Company New section for complete details). However, within 24 hours this was followed by the potentially UK tyre wholesale and retail-changing announcement that Sumitomo Rubber Industries had acquired Micheldever Tyre Services.
On 27 December, Japan’s Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ltd. entered into an agreement with UK-based sporting goods retailer Sports Direct International plc to acquire the international trademark rights for the Dunlop brand and the brand’s sporting goods and licencing businesses. The transaction carries a purchase price of US$137.5 million.
No review of 2016 would be complete without some reference to Brexit. Before the referendum result on 23 June, few people thought it would happen. Now the vote of 52 per cent in favour of leaving the European Union has long been counted, we can’t avoid talking about Brexit. Furthermore, with Donald Trump having won the US presidential election on 8 November in what he predicted would be “Brexit+++” the impact of the UK vote has taken on even greater significance.
It’s tariff time again. The US government has imposed trade sanctions on US-produced OTR and industrial tyres before. They have done so with car tyres twice before. This time it’s truck tyres. But are they effective? Will they halt the rise of Chinese tyre manufacturers in general? And what does it mean for those doing business with truck tyres in the UK and Europe?
Sometimes tyre people are creatures of habit. They like what they know and they know what they like. So when change comes it can feel disorientating. But change is also the engine of progress. And standing still is virtually synonymous with going backwards.
You’ve heard of software as a service (or SaaS). But tyres as a service? If you haven’t heard of SaaS, the chances are you have transacted with a business model based on SaaS’s subscription-centred thinking. The popularity of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify and Amazon music make this point. You pay your money and access to your favourite media is simply included. Now transpose this set-up into the world of tyres.
Last month, talk of tyre testing irregularities came to the fore following Nokian’s admissions of “mistakes” in this area. In the April edition of Tyres & Accessories we follow up on this story in some detail with a survey of leading manufacturers’ responses to the issue of the day and an exclusive interview with Nokian president and CEO Ari Lehtoranta. While the detailed views of the world’s leading tyre makers are many and varied, they are all unified in their denials of any underhand behaviour relating to magazine and association tyre testing (see "Top tyre manufacturers deny involvement in tyre test manipulation" for the full story). And yet Nokian’s Lehtoranta has clearly pointed the finger at the broader industry on a number of occasions in the past – and apparently is continuing to do so.
As in life, when it comes to tyre testing, honesty is the best policy. Nokian Tyres’ “worst day ever” happened at the end of February – with the Finnish manufacturer and well-known winter tyre specialist accused of manipulating tyre test results for a decade and then apologising for “mistakes” relating to tyre tests. The two quickest responses to the story were from Nokian Tyres itself and – more surprisingly – Michelin, which deftly pre-empted the widening of questions relating to tyre testing by putting out a statement of its own. As a result, both Nokian and Michelin have adopted exactly the right approach, from a communications perspective at least. Looking at the story through this lens we can see practical examples of the golden rules of PR in action – control the narrative, take initiative and tell the truth.
This morning we went to press we awoke to the news that David Cameron has almost negotiated an “emergency brake” deal. In other words, the British Prime Minister is working to control the number of migrants entering the country and the amount of benefits the state should have to pay them. Early indications suggest that Cameron will be able to pull the “emergency brake” for up to four years if the UK can prove Britain's social and welfare system is under “excessive strain” from immigration. However, all this obscures the wider political debate that is going on within British politics and the conservative party itself. And it belies the fact that parties of all colours are positioning themselves politically ahead of the UK referendum on whether or not to remain a member of the European Union.
New year, new trends It seems a bit pessimistic to start 2016 with a reference to recession. Nevertheless, when Bank of England deputy governor Minouche Shafik suggested the UK tyre industry is in the grip of recession-based consumer behaviour at the end of 2015 she highlighted an important point. The market is encountering different purchasing […]
On 3 November Michelin announced a series of pan-European tyre manufacturing restructuring plans designed to address the dual pressures from the on-going negative effects of the 2008 global financial crisis and the sharp increase of low-cost imports – especially in the truck and bus tyre segment. In short this means the closure of its Ballymena truck tyre plant, alongside investment in its Dundee and Stoke facilities; as well as the closure of its Pneu Laurent retreading operation in Germany; not to mention further significant investments and some closures in Michelin’s Italian tyre production plants.
In mid-September the emissions hit the fan for VW. What began with an admission that half a million Golfs and Beetles were not showing the right emissions values in lab tests, quickly became a global scandal involving 11 million vehicles, disastrously affecting the group’s share price, resulting in the ‘restructuring’ of the firm’s global leadership and worst of all affecting confidence in both VW and the wider automotive and automotive testing industries.
While ChemChina’s deal with Camfin to take over Pirelli officially got under way this month, not everyone connected to the economy in the People’s Republic was looking so positive. The stock market has been in freefall and industrial production looks to have taken a big hit. The Chinese state’s answer? To devalue the national currency (the yuan renminbi or RMB) three times in a week and make already cheap Chinese exports even cheaper.