Hankook Tire Europe has elected Hee-Se Ahn (48) as Vice-President of Sales & Marketing for the tyre manufacturer’s European regional headquarters, located in Neu-Isenburg near Frankfurt/Germany. He succeeds Byeong-Jin Lee who has moved to a new management position at the group’s headquarters in Seoul/Korea. Mr Ahn’s responsibilities will include successfully integrating the company’s new 500 million euro Hungarian production plant into its future European marketing strategy.
Revolution Motorstore has unveiled its latest wheel, which the company describes as “a retro classic” – the Lenso BSX. According to the promotional literature, the new wheel harks back to the glory days of the DTM and exudes “Old-School cool,” with it’s pseudo split-rim effect and highly polished rim. The new Lenso BSX in 15 or 16-inch sizes, with either 25mm or 38mm offset available. Prices start at just £99 inc. VAT for the 15-inch version and even custom drilled orders can usually be turned round in 72 hours. Revolution Motorstore is also offering a bespoke custom drilling service.
As a leading independent retread operation, Bandvulc Tyres has learnt to adapt its business model to the various market conditions it has encountered over the years. However, the Ivybridge, Devon-based family business remains unwilling to compromise on either quality or the ambitious targets it sets itself. With production expected to be around 200,000 units this year and having attained IS0 14001 in 2007, the company now aims to set the pace in terms of environmental tyre production.
One of managing director Patrick O’Connell’s targets for 2008 is to increase international sales. Bandvulc’s
number one target market is Germany, something that is evidenced by the fact that the company appointed a German speaking salesperson to cater specifically for this market at the end of last year. Bandvulc currently exports a total of around 5 per cent of production and has been selling tyres in Germany via the well-known, Conti-owned retail chain Vergoelst for four years now. O’Connell is very
positive about progress in the market: “Germany has a lot of potential,” he commented.
Bandvulc punches above its weight in terms of tyreproduction and development too. Speaking to Tyres & Accessories in late February, managing director, Patrick O’Connell revealed that Bandvulc re-invests £1 million a year into its manufacturing process alone.
As far as product development is concerned, the fact that Bandvulc does all its own compounding through its Devon Rubber division means the company is well-positioned to develop the new low rolling resistance compounds fleets now demand. In order to fulfil these demands Devon Rubber recently started using a specialist carbon black in its tread compounds and, as a result, all Bandvulc tyres are expected to benefit from the wear characteristics it provides.
Bandvulc is also using some of the latest digitised tyre footprint analysis systems and as a result will soon launch a number of updated products which have been optimised to improve mileage and handling characteristics. This range of tyres is known as the Plus range.
The latest machinery update at Bandvulc is the addition of a new high speed shearography machine from Steinbichler in Germany. According to the company, casing shearography has been shown to save on inprocess rejects due to casing failures which would otherwise not be detected until each tyre is finally inspected before leaving the factory.
Following its installation, this £150,000 machine is now handling 250 (mainly 385 width) casings daily. Through further automation and potentially extending the period of operation, this will increase the quantity processed close to 80 per cent of total volume through the manufacturing facility.
However, the machinery upgrades don’t end there. During Tyres & Accessories’ factory tour, O’Connell revealed that Bandvulc is currently upgrading its entire collection of curing presses (42 in all). So far, the company has already installed and is running five bagomatic presses which are monitored in great detail by a bespoke-designed piece of computer software.
In addition to the sheer scale of curing presses that are installed, the fact that the Ivybridge plant is the only retread production site in Britain that uses three Marangoni Alpha Twin tyre building machines demonstrates Bandvulc’s quality orientated production philosophy.
Casing the joint
All retreaders need a steady supply of quality casings. That’s why at any given point Bandvulc has a stock of around 20,000 casings in its yard pre inspected. During the checking procedure, detailed notes of damage, husbandry and usage are stored in the company’s unique CCC (centralized database) system. To date this system has logged 10 years worth of inspections, relating to literally millions of casings. And all this gives Bandvulc a deep insight into the manufacturing consistency of various tyremakers’ overseas operations. It also enables the retreader to select from a wider range of casings than some retread producers. This gives the company the flexibility of reusing the range of tyres that may be fitted to a fleet’s vehicles.
Following inspection all tyres are barcoded using Bandvulc’s unique ‘Merlin’ product tracking system, which was installed last April. Next, approved tyres are conveyed to an adjoining building where casings are buffed down on 4 TRM computer automated machines (after inspection all casings are transported around the factory on an overhead monorail system). Following repair in one of Bandvulc’s eight “knights of the round table” themed repair bays, tyres are once again checked for defects including nail holes, using Hawkinson machinery.
After curing, the newly reborn tyres go through a post production test procedure that includes visual test, inflation test and the less common sonic testing. The latter sees the newly cured and trimmed tyre submerged in water and then showered with ultrasonic frequencies in a process not dissimilar to the ultrasound scans expectant mothers have. According to O’Connell, this technique is more effective than any other at detecting porosity. Again the software was designed by Bandvulc and custom produced for the independent retreader.
Greener than green
At the beginning of last year Bandvulc began an 11-month long project to obtain ISO 14001 certification. This was headed up by Matteo Littera, the company’s then Knowledge Transfer Partnership graduate. According to Bandvulc every single one of the 250+ workforce in Ivybridge was involved in its implementation.
While many manufacturing companies have achieved ISO 14001, what is unusual about Bandvulc is its whiter than white transparency about the details of its green policy, and the company’s attention to detail in this respect. How many other companies volunteer the information that switching the company boiler system to automatic start will save 443,136kWh per year (83 tons of CO2)?
Bandvulc’s Green thinking approach stretches as far as the boardroom, with company management keen to highlight the fact that its retreads have saved (at the time of going to press) 2 million litres of oil and 1.3 million kilos of rubber this year alone. Outside of the boardroom, Tyres & Accessories heard that certain senior managers’ company car choice is now heavily influenced by the amount of CO2 vehicles emit. Even company literature is printed on recycled carbon neutral paper!
Continental has announced that it will use the CV Show to mark the European launch of a brand new trailer tyre for regional applications – the 385/65 R22.5. Speaking at the relaunch of ContiNetwork, truck brand manager, Mike Nyren, explained that other product launches include: new steer and drive tyres in 295/80R22.5, 12R22.5 and 11R22.5 sizes for construction or off-road applications. Also on display will be additions to the ContiRe retread range including the new 315/80R22.5 drive tyre for regional applications and 295/80 R22.5 construction drive tyre.
Continental will also show its new Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, the comprehensive tyre management package available from ContiEuroService Fleet Management and the new ContiNetwork dealer network structure.
Cooper Tire & Rubber Company has reported net income of $51 million for the fourth quarter of 2007, ended 31 December. Income from continuing operations increased $67 million from a loss of $28 million for the same period last year. The substantial earnings improvement was accompanied by a new record of $765 million in sales for the quarter, a 7 per cent increase over the same period last year. During the quarter, the Company reported a $26.5 million gain on the sale of the operations of the Oliver Rubber Company and explained that it received net cash proceeds of $66 million.
The Company’s International Tire Operations reported sales of $228 million in the quarter, an increase of 29 per cent compared with the fourth quarter of 2006. The segment’s operating profit improved by $8.6 million to $3.8 million from a fourth quarter loss of $4.8 million the previous year. This increase was said to have been driven by higher unit volumes and pricing. For the total year, operating profit for the segment improved to $29 million, a $19 million increase over the same period last year.
Some of India’s leading tyre manufacturers including MRF and Ceat will cut prices by between 1 and 2 per cent. According to local news sources, the news follows a proposal from India’s finance minister to introduce a two percentage point cut in duty as part of the 2008/09 budget in order to boost manufacturing. As a result, Indian manufacturers are queuing up to be seen to pass on the benefit to their customers.
“We will be passing on the entire duty cut,” K.J. Rao Chief Financial Officer at Ceat was quoted as saying. Koshy Verghese, MRF’s executive vice president commented also gave details of a 1 per cent-plus price cut on its truck products. In 2007 MRF Ltd. was reportedly the Indian market leader (22% market share;) followed closely by Apollo Tyres Ltd. (21%); JK Tyre & Industries Ltd (18%); and Ceat Ltd. (13%).
Gloucester-based Moreton C Cullimore is fitting Michelin XZE2 and Remix XDY3 tyres across its fleet of 42 vehicles, as part of a new agreement with ATS Euromaster to supply, fit and service its tyres. The sand and gravel merchant also has daily fleet checks carried out by a mobile ATS Euromaster technician who monitors tyre condition for optimum safety and performance.
The latest edition of Bosal UK’s exhaust catalogue has been launched with a range of exhaust systems and cats for over 98 per cent of the European car parc, making it the most comprehensive in the motor trade. The 1,000 page catalogue contains details of over 4,700 fully type-approved systems, over 300 of which are new from the last edition. There are listings for almost 600 new exhaust parts, including pipes, silencers, mountings and accessories and 138 new catalytic converters plus details of development items due for release during the two-year life of the new catalogue.
Lassa has announced the introduction of the new High Performance Impetus Revo tyre. In a like-for-like competitor comparison, the new Lassa Impetus Revo “performed well in all areas and exceptionally when compared for aquaplaning and riding comfort,” Lassa representatives told Tyres & Accessories. 27 Revo sizes will be phased in during 2008, with a furher 15 further sizes following in 2009.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has announced the appointment of Richard Noechel as vice president and corporate controller, replacing Thomas A. Connell, who in turn was named vice president and chief information officer. Noechel, 39, had been chief financial officer of Goodyear’s South Pacific Tyre subsidiary in Australia since 2006. He began his career with Goodyear in 2004, serving as assistant controller at the company’s corporate headquarters in Akron.
Prior to joining Goodyear, Noechel was vice president and controller for The Kmart Corporation from 2001 through 2004. He also worked for DaimlerChrysler in various positions from 1997 through 2001 and for Price Waterhouse LLP from 1991 through 1997.
Last July Tyres & Accessories attended the opening of the completely refurbished HiQ outlet in Nuthall road, Nottingham. The reason for our visit to the East Midlands, and what set this particular occasion apart from the numerous store openings that take place each year, is that the revamped Nottingham store was representative of things to come at HiQ. The Goodyear Dunlop group chain of retail fast fit outlets, as we reported in detail within our September 2007 article “What the HiQ “Revolution” Looks Like, was embarking of a programme of standardising its brand image and expanding its nationwide profile considerably. Six or seven months later, these plans are still in their early stages, but with some 30 outlets already refurbished, definite progress has taken place.
The number of HiQ outlets nationwide as of February 2008 stands at approximately 120. The three-year plan unveiled last year is to more than double this number by 2010. By the end of this year 30 more outlets are anticipated to join the HiQ family, seven in the first quarter; a positive start to the company’s growth plans – and the drive to attract new franchisees is really only beginning to get underway in earnest. As HiQ managing director Neil Burrows said at the time of the Nottingham outlet opening, more than 100 franchisees are anticipated to come on board over the course of three years. An initial geographical focus was the North West and the area ringed by the M25.
These new stores will follow the pattern set by the £600,000 Nottingham outlet refurbishment, says Neil Burrows. “The Nottingham centre is the first realisation of the new HiQ concept and it encapsulates everything we are aiming to do in the industry.” He adds that, while many outlets currently may not meet the high standards set by this particular premises, the company’s three-year plans will see all existing outlets redeveloped.
However for HiQ it is not simply a case of laying out the welcome mat then sitting back awaiting prospective franchisees to beat a path to its door. The company is proactively using a number of means to increase its profile – both with the motoring public but also, more specifically, with those within the industry that may not be aware of the franchising opportunities now becoming available. An important vehicle HiQ intends using to get its name out there in 2008 is the British Touring Car Championships. Goodyear Dunlop’s relationship with the series dates back a number of years and the Dunlop brand name held title sponsorship for the 2006 and 2007 seasons. During these years the benefits of the association with the BTCC were readily apparent, and the decision was taken to use the considerable exposure offered by the BTCC to Hi-Q’s advantage.
“We re-launched HiQ last summer with a rigorous plan through to 2010 to grow our network and to invest in brand awareness for HiQ,” comments Goodyear Dunlop corporate communications manager James Bailey. “We had already realised through our Dunlop sponsorship of the BTCC that this series provides fantastic exposure – it is the only championship outside of Formula One that is broadcast prime time on ITV.” Bailey adds that, as Dunlop retains its position as exclusive tyre supplier to the series, a switch to HiQ title sponsorship in actuality provides the best of both worlds – the simultaneous exposure of the company’s product and service brands. And as a means of getting the HiQ name out there, BTCC title sponsorship is hard to beat. The ITV coverage, says Bailey, attracts around two million viewers for each round – 20 million a season. Added to the 250,000 or so who attend the races, this is a sizable audience by any standard. The company’s brand exposure through the BTCC is, and will continue to be, supplemented by an increased level of advertising.
The main focus for HiQ in the next two to three years is, says Bailey, to continue the success achieved by the Nottingham store and the company’s first new look stores. “We have already noticed an increase in sales at outlets fitted out with the new HiQ brand identity,” he comments. And, as previously mentioned, plans are already firmly in place to ensure the number of stores conforming to the new HiQ look and feel continues to grow.
“Our second focus is to look at areas on the map where opportunities for franchising and extending our presence exist,” says the corporate communications manager, adding that the Norfolk region and the corridor between Manchester and Liverpool have been identified as key regions for growth. Hi-Q is actively seeking investment in these areas.
The company views Hi-Q’s fleet business as an existing area of strength, one that has greatly benefited from business brought in through the Goodyear Dunlop brand. During 2008 Hi-Q intends as a matter of priority to strengthen the retail side of operations and, through greater brand awareness, attract more retail customers. HiQ is aware that franchised dealers have raised their standards in recent times, and if they wish to remain a market leader HiQ needs to in turn raise its own standards even further. As James Bailey concludes: “Although market research shows a positive view of the Hi-Q brand, we believe that greater exposure through television advertising and motorsport, combined with an increasingly standardised brand image throughout the UK, will take public awareness of the Hi-Q brand to another level.”
Following reports that Goodyear was about to sign an agreement to invest a 10-figure sum in a production plant in Dalian, China, Goodyear has responded to Tyres & Accessories with the following statement. According to Keith Price, Goodyear’s National Media Relations Director: “Dalian is already an important location for Goodyear and further investments in that location are possible, however we continue to explore opportunities in Asia and Dalian is one of them.”
According to Price, Goodyear is not currently in a position to invest the huge figure Reuters reported: “$1 billion in one plant in less than several years is an impossibility for Goodyear. We will make the appropriate announcements once any decisions have been finalized.”
“We also are continuing to evaluate strategic investments in high-value-added and low-cost capacity in Eastern Europe and Asia,” the statement continued, adding: “As indicated in Goodyear’s fourth quarter investor conference call, the company remains committed and on track to reduce our net debt, improve our cash flow and achieve our next stage metrics.”
Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is to pay a quarterly dividend of 10.5 cents per share on common stock 31 March, 2008, to stockholders of record at the close of business 10 March, 2008. The payment represents the 144th consecutive quarterly dividend made by Cooper Tire & Rubber Company.
According to ATS Euromaster, May 2007 was the worst month of last year for commercial vehicle tyre-related breakdowns on the UK roads. The company says that its data shows that, throughout the year, ATS Euromaster’s 24 hour Rapid Response team handled 111,318 calls for roadside assistance from vans to top weight articulated trucks, with 10,242 (or 9.2 per cent) of all call-outs falling in May. The quietest month was December, with just 7,042 (or 6.3 per cent) of calls.
Goodyear is reportedly close to investing over $1 billion in the construction of a tyre manufacturing facility near Dalian. The mayor of Dalian, Xia Deren, told the Reuters news agency that the city’s government had finalised an investment plan and would sign an agreement shortly.
According to the report, Goodyear is planning to build a plant in the Beishan area and hire more than 2,000 employees for a factory that would sell both domestically and for export. Goodyear representatives told Tyres & Accessories that they were aware of the reports, but didn’t give any further details.