American trends, schemes that have proved successful on the other side of the big pond, will spill over to Europe after a short delay. That has always been so. So watch out for the letters FCSD and remember that they stand for Ford Customer Service Division. The car giant has just started a strong advertising campaign in North America, introducing to the public “America’s Newest Tire Store”, a network of 2,400 of the current 5,000 Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealers. According to a Ford spokesman, this is the latest step in providing customers with everything they really need, and all at one stop. The Ford and Lincoln dealers, he claimed, have suitable business premises, sufficient relevant expertise and the scope to offer competitive prices – with the express advance warning that Ford has no intention to be cheap but will market tyres “at a fair price”. Tyre manufacturers build tyres to Ford specifications, the spokesman explained, and it would therefore only be a natural progression for the company to market “original replacement parts”. Thus only original equipment suppliers will be able to take part in the Ford replacement business. To give the project a kick-start the company currently runs a lavish and expensive TV campaign (costs are not disclosed), later to be supported and partly replaced by radio advertising and direct mailing. Carl Bergmann, Customer Service Operations Manager, can see no point in sending customers away in future when they want to buy tyres. And these are certainly not empty words: In July 1998 the Ford organisation sold a mere 700 tyres, the figure for this July was 97,000, and that is only a start. The sales target for the current year is one million tyres, three million in the year 2000, to be doubled again to six million units in 2001, at least according to a Ford Motor Co. spokesman talking to the press. These are large numbers indeed, but not unrealistically so, because if each of the currently participating 2,400 dealers only sells one set of tyres per day, the three-million barrier will be breached.
Approximately 29 million winter tyres will be sold in Central Europe (i.e. without Scandinavia) this winter. In Germany alone the figure will be well in excess of 16 million units (55 p.c.). Germany’s motorists will spend about three billion marks this year on tyres and services when refitting their vehicles with winter tyres.
For the launch of its two new winter tyre models, the “ContiWinterContact TS 780” and the transporter and van tyre “VancoWinter” at the beginning of October the Continental AG management chose a very special venue: Iceland. However, a blizzard that raged for days prevented practical tests of the new tyres on the selected glacier. Developers of winter tyres are always faced with the classic dilemma: Do they design for optimum grip on snow or on dry roads? The development of the TS 780 for vehicles of the compact and lower medium classes aimed at reducing the discrepancy between the two objectives. An important innovation is a sipe construction which tries to emulate the architecture of beehives with its honeycomb shape. According to the manufacturer, the honeycomb sipe has clear safety advantages when cornering on snow. A directional tread pattern and the latest silica compound technology are additional features responsible for the new tyre’s good driving characteristics in wintry conditions as well as on dry and wet roads. It is available in all European markets needing winter tyres, initially in 13 sizes from 145/80 R 13 75Q to 185/60 R 14 82T. The “VancoWinter” was specially developed for medium and heavy vans. Traction on ice and snow is provided by sipes which are incorporated in the tread blocks. To achieve a significant improvement over its predecessor, the “LMS 70”, the VancoWinter’s sipes and blocks are twice as high. Its behaviour on icy roads is to be improved by distributing the pressure on the ground more evenly. The van tyre is immediately available, at first in nine sizes (from 185 R 14C to 195/65 R 16C).
It is a well-known fact that Bridgestone does not stint itself in its Formula One commitment. For instance: The number of tyres carted to every race is 2,640 in two different compounds for dry and three different compounds for wet weather. Together with the costs of research and development plus marketing/advertising (which definitely accounts for the highest expenditure) it may amount to a nine-figure sum. In this context one has to ask: Cui bono? Or: Why do the Japanese involve themselves in Formula One at all? The current market share of the tyre giant in Europe is estimated to be about twelve per cent, therefore leaving room for further growth. And what would be more suitable for a Far Eastern tyre group keen to catch up in the lucrative European market than its omnipresence in the most important motor racing event worldwide (only in USA Formula One is met with relatively little interest)? When all is said and done: twelve of the 16 races are run on European soil. Takeshi Uchiyama, Managing Director of BS/FS Europe, describes his company’s objective, “We are determined to raise our global brand awareness”.To put it simply: If the Bridgestone logo is clearly visible every fortnight adorning streamers, bridges, vehicles, overalls, drivers’ caps and, last but not least, all the tyres, that must sooner or later penetrate the memory or consciousness of the mass media public. Ideally it also raises significantly the image of the brand as a low-profile quality tyre. And once this perception takes hold and people’s high opinion is tranferred to other segments, this reputation will not only benefit the high-performance segment but also other types of tyre.
September is show time in Frankfurt. This year we have just seen the IAA for cars and motorcycles, the 58th such event. Almost 1,200 exhibitors from 43 countries displayed the whole width and breadth of automotive progress on 225,000 square metres of indoor and outdoor exhibition space. The theme of this year’s exhibition, “Auto: Treffpunkt Zukunft” (“Car – Meeting-Place: The Future”) must also be understood as the industry’s programme: Car manufacturers alone offered 51 world premières, eight European and 38 German premières, not counting the numerous innovations of vehicle component suppliers, the motor manufacturers’ development partners. Apart from new production-line cars, futuristic concept cars, motorcycles and special vehicles Frankfurt showed trailers, parts and accessories, tuning products, aids for vehicle maintenance, protective clothing, traffic guidance and information systems. Tyre manufacturers with IAA stands of their own were Michelin, Continental, Dunlop and Pneumant. The second part of the 58th IAA – the commercial vehicle side – will take place from 23rd to 30th September 2000 under the theme “Nutzfahrzeuge: Für alle auf Achse” (“Commercial Vehicles: For Everybody on the Move”) and also be held at Frankfurt/Main. The organisation will also be in the hands of the Association of the Motor Manufacturing Industry (VDA).
With a fuel consumption of less than three litres per hundred kilometres (approximately 95mpg) the new Volkswagen Lupo TDI sets new standards. The reduced consumption has been achieved by a combination of various measures; the use of light-weight forged wheels by Fuchs is for instance a contributory factor to the reduced weight of the vehicle. On the tyre side, Bridgestone/Firestone has scored in original equipment with the B 381 Ecopia, size 155/65 R14 75T. The name, made up from “ecology” and “utopia” is also the statement of a programme, which will exploit experience gained in the construction of this tyre for future Bridgestone/Firestone products. The tyre manufacturer achieved weight reduction by using aramid instead of steel in the belt and light-weight polyester in the casing. Thanks to its clever rubber compound formula the tyre’s rolling resistance has also been optimised and at the same time has fulfilled the tyre manufacturer’s ecologically motivated desire for noise reduction. As an equivalent for the winter season Bridgestone recommends the WT 12 tread pattern.
Dunlop’s SP Sport 200 E has been given the “Blue Angel” quality seal of approval for nine sizes. The “Blue Angel” adheres to very strict guidelines and is especially for environment-friendly products and processes whose user qualities and safety aspects are in no way inferior to conventional products. Recipients are chosen by independent institutions. This new car tyre (speed indices H and V) is awarded the eco seal for qualities such as low noise level, the light weight of the product, fuel saving and reduced emissions thanks to its optimised rolling resistance. Dunlop’s winter tyre SP Winter Sport M 2 is currently being tested for exceptional environment-friendliness.
Krupp Elastomertechnik was created in 1996 by the merger of the company Werner & Pfleiderer Gummitechnik in Freudenberg and the rubber technology division of Krupp Kunststofftechnik. Thus two companies were united which, by their own admission, had cooperated in technology for a long time. This offers the rubber processing industry the opportunity of a “one-stop shop”, as it claims to a large extent to cover all essential preparation and process stages. According to Krupp, all machines, facilities and systems are the product of computer-aided development and construction on modern machine tools and manufacturing facilities and are installed and thoroughly checked before being handed over. In the recent past various new and advanced developments at Krupp Elastomer GmbH were particularly aimed at consolidating and improving the market position of the company. Largest market shares overall are held in Europe, but that does not mean that other regions of the world are less important to the company. For example Asia, which has so far produced 40 p.c. of the total turnover. At present this market is not too prosperous although there are a few positive signs, but that deficiency was almost made up by comparatively good sales in Europe, since the boom in the motor manufacturing industry and therefore in tyre production also benefits machine manufacturers. For the current year further growth in tyre sales figures is generally expected, at least in Germany. That should herald a bright future for machine manufacturers in the tyre industry, shouldn’t it?
Karl-Friedrich Schmidt (59), previously Fulda manager with Europe-wide responsibility for Manufacturing Efficiency and Information Systems, took over as Director Global Manufacturing Efficiency of the Goodyear parent company with effect from 1st October. In this new function he reports directly to Goodyear’s world headquarters in Akron/Ohio, where he will also be based. “My principal aim is to raise the efficiency and profitability of all Goodyear production facilities worldwide”, said Schmidt. K.-F. Schmidt began his career with the group in 1983 when he joined Gummiwerke Fulda as Manager Industrial Engineering. In 1986 he moved to the personnel and welfare department with the rank of Deputy Managing Director. Four years later he became Manager Organization Effectiveness Europe for group divisions not directly product-related. He held his most recent position since 1993, during which time he was responsible for the integration of company acquisitions, among others Debica (Poland), Sava (Slovenia) and the repurchase of Goodyear South Africa.
Michelin wants to speed up the globalisation process and has its back to the wall. Once again cost reduction programmes and job cuts are necessary. In the struggle between the “Big Three” Michelin may have been dealt the worst hand. Bridgestone’s and Goodyear/Dunlop’s pressure on the home market of the French is growing. Bridgestone with its immensely strong financial power is considered capable of becoming the clear number one in the global tyre market.
In its August issue NEUE REIFENZEITUNG reported that Pirelli had fallen behind with its plans for Germany, in parts by 20 p.c., and that the attraction of the Pirelli brand was on the wane, with price erosion as the consequence. Dr. Wentz, the Pirelli Reifenwerke boss, it was said, had to postpone his intended retirement, because G. Sala, his successor-designate, was unable to take up his post for health reasons. We also mentioned the possible return to Höchst of Dr. P. Masera as Pirelli Reifenwerke boss. Pirelli declared that Dr. Wentz would stay in office for several more years, and that there was no question of the Pirelli brand becoming less popular, rather the contrary. Results were good, we were told, Pirelli was doing very well in Germany and no redundancies were planned. One month later the head of the group, Tronchetti Provera, announced 2,800 job cuts for this year, 800 of them on the tyre side. In this context Milan made special mention of the significant price reduction in the winter tyre segment and in super-high-performance tyres, especially in the German market. In the meantime Dr. Masera has taken over as Chairman of the management. Dr. Wentz will leave Pirelli Reifenwerke by the end of the year but retain his seat on the board of Pirelli Deutschland AG and is also in line for a seat on the supervisory board.
The Vredestein NV group consists of five companies with activities in car, transporter, agricultural and industrial as well as bicycle tyres, boots for consumer markets and industrial applications, recycled rubber, compounds and sealing extrusions. The company employs about 2,200 people in total. The first half of 1999 developed according to forecast, with net profits increased to 600,000 euros – 200,000 euros more than in the first half of 1998. Consolidated net turnover yields rose by ten per cent from 98.1 million euros to 108 million euros, and during the period in question cash-flow was up by 1.1 million to 9.9 million euros. Vredestein Banden’s turnover increased during the first quarter due to the long winter and the resulting good opportunities for selling winter tyres. The first half year was characterised by the “Sportrac” introduction, a new tyre for the high speed sector (up to 240 km/h) developed in close conjunction with Guigiaro Design, the renowned Italian designer firm. Sales of the new Sportrac have exceeded expectations, according to the manufacturer. Several sizes are not yet available, so the impact of its introduction should be felt in full during the second half of 1999. In the agricultural tyre sector the recently launched AS radial (Traxion+) was well received. Industrial tyre sales developed positively. An important part of the Vredestein group’s annual result is traditionally achieved in the second half of the year, mainly due to the strong influence of Vredestein Banden’s winter tyre sales. Assuming that economic conditions remain stable in the most important European markets, the company is optimistic that it will once again be able to increase last year’s profit.
The management has undertaken an upward revision of the turnover and profit forecasts. Due to increased turnover all business divisions were able to improve their margins, but it seems that General Tire did not entirely come up to the expectations of institutional investors. The Teves result (half-yearly turnover: 1.278 billion euros, EBIT: 27 million euros) came as a pleasant surprise to banking circles. After the first six months group turnover reached 4.449 billion euros, and the EBIT of 263 million euros was roughly ten per cent above expectations. Stock exchange experts value the potential of the Continental share with 25 to 26 euros, which has as yet not been realised. The slightly worrying aspect is the fear that Continental could be “lumped together” with other, “normal” tyre manufacturers, e.g. Michelin, Goodyear and Pirelli, which produced rather sobering results.
The tyre factories of Brisa (Bridgestone/Sabanci), Pirelli and Goodyear are all situated within a few hundred metres from one another along a road leading out of Izmit, the town so severely hit by the earthquake. Bekaert also has a production facility nearby, Continental manufactures technical rubber products not far away, and a second Pirelli plant makes cables. It will only be a matter of days until production, only partially interrupted by the earthquake, returns to full strength while the aid campaign has gone into full swing at the same time.
The Fürstenwalde production base of Pneumant Reifen GmbH is under threat in the long term, Dr. Rainer Schieben, Commercial Managing Director, announced at the Pneumant head office in Fürstenwalde at the beginning of September. As early as this autumn the company will draw winter tyres from the Japanese production for cost reasons, and part of the summer tyre production will also be transferred to Japan. And, according to Schieben, the new owner, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, has already cut the production planning for the year 2000 by 200,000 tyres, which cannot be without repercussions on investment and employment. Schieben gave too high energy costs at Fürstenwalde as the reason for the problems. The current price per megawatt hour for the process temperature is roughly three times higher than in similar factories of the Dunlop parent company in Germany. By international comparison within the Goodyear group the high energy price has become even less justifiable. Pneumant employs a workforce of 550 plus 40 apprentices at the Fürstenwalde production base. 325 people are employed at the company’s second factory in Riesa. The tyre manufacturer is one of the few former GDR companies to have survived successfully. Thanks to an investment volume of 250 million marks since 1996 by the Dunlop parent company Pneumant possesses the most modern production facilities in Europe. In the car tyre replacement market the company is the clear market leader in the new federal states.