Vredestein: Two years with Bert Stellinga at the helm in the UK

Bert Stellinga has now been installed at Vredestein’s Wellingborough UK headquarters for two years. In that time Vredestein have launched new high performance tyres and taken steps to develop the brand awareness in the enthusiasts market in the UK, whilst at the same time developing their share of the agricultural tyre market. It has very much been steady as she goes for the Dutch tyre manufacturer.

Bert Stellinga told T&A that the UK is a major market for Vredestein and that progress was being made in both the UK and the Irish markets. However, to get a better picture of the company it was important to understand the wider position of Vredestein as an organisation.

2003 saw Vredestein’s year on year sales on the increase and the company managed to record a profit, very close to that earned in 2002. During the year there was also a stock reduction exercise which released funds and made the whole business more profitable. “The fact that Vredestein is making a profit,” says Stellinga, “enables the company to invest in people and product, to develop new services. For instance, in some markets in the European Union we have our new Internet Ordering facility in place. This allows customers to access stock records, place orders and arrange delivery on line, at their convenience. The strength of being in profit also allows us to develop our marketing with advertising and of course attendance at events such as the Autosport International Exhibition.

“One of the biggest developments for the company last year was the return to private ownership. Having removed the obligation to the shareholders that put the company in a position where it could increase its flexibility and invest in research and development. At present we are in a transitional period but the move will have positive consequences in the future. This will be seen in the investment in new lines this year with a new winter tyre arriving later in 2004.”

One question that arises about Vredestein is its ability to stand alone. Other smaller manufacturers are working together with off-take agreements to fill capacity, or enable ranges to be extended. There is a deal of technology exchange and shared product development. As an independent, manufacturer can Vredestein continue to develop its own products as a stand alone business?

“Vredestein is very much a self contained operation and I don’t think that we would envisage such close co-operation with competitors. Our own R&D facility swallows a considerable element of the finance budget but we need to develop products that the market appreciates and wants. We produce niche products that appeal to specialised markets – Sportrac and Ultrac are the only designer tyres in the world and our cooperation with Giugiaro Design is proving to be very successful, for instance. We do not need vast volumes because we are selling premium quality products where we can maintain good prices for everyone in the chain. We do not deal with OE in passenger car tyres, so we can survive on our limited capacity. Our OE market is strictly agricultural and again, we offer a premium brand tyre to a specialised market,” says Bert Stellinga. “We are determined to go it alone and I can’t see any reason why we shouldn’t.”

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