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.
The Greek people just voted “no” in their recent referendum on whether to accept bail-out terms that would have meant tougher austerity measures for the domestic economy. At the time of going to press, the consensus is that this move will be interpreted as a no to the euro and it has prompted much speculation that Greece will be forced to leave the eurozone, return to the drachma, create a new currency and/or some combination of the above. Of course, any economic change of this scale is bound to have an impact on the way business is done across European boundaries. But as well as the direct practical implications, a number of key features of the saga provoke wider comparisons.
A couple of months ago we discussed the “restructuring” of relatively large and modern Chinese manufacturer Deruibao Tire. Back then, Qingdao Doublestar was top of the list of firms connected with an acquisition/cooperation/merger rescue orchestrated by the local government. A month later government-owned ChemChina announced that it was buying Pirelli. This latter point has been covered in some depth in the pages of Tyres & Accessories, especially in our April edition. The Pirelli/ChemChina story will no-doubt garner more attention as the very complex outworkings of the deal are walked out, but what remains of interest is the way in which both the local Chinese market and the global industry are engaged in a period of both parallel and inter-connected consolidation.
This month I went back to school. Tyre 2015 – the fourth International Tyre Colloquium, hosted by University of Surrey to be precise. While much of the science was beyond those of us that don’t work in R&D, the concepts behind the really technical stuff are fascinating. And what’s more, they offer a unique insight into what is on the horizon in terms of tyre development, vehicle dynamics and indeed original equipment (OE) trends.
In case you haven’t heard, as much as 65 per cent of Pirelli is in the process of being sold to ChemChina. It’s a complex plan and there’s a long road ahead, but the deal has been done and so takeover wheels are in motion (see page 28 for complete coverage of this part of the story). So what’s next? The deal can’t fail to have an impact at Pirelli, but what about the other top five tyre manufacturers and beyond? We hinted at market consolidation in this column last month, with reference to restructuring proceedings at Shandong Deruibao Tire Co., Ltd and possible contagion in China; and Pirelli CEO Marco Tronchetti Provera made the market aware of that he was planning to sell his stake within two years in January 2014. But few would have named this particular bidder and this particular timing. Now we are faced with the possibility, even the likelihood that the Pirelli/ChemChina deal is going to precipitate further micro and macro consolidation within the tyre market - even a re-shuffle of the tyre industry's top 10.
No sooner had Shandong Deruibao Tire Co., Ltd. entered into apparent “restructuring” proceedings on 7 February then we at Tyres & Accessories started hearing about it on the grapevine (see page 40 for full coverage of this story). Of course, companies face difficulties in any business from time to time, but this case has particular […]