Bridgestone Enters UK Bus Segment
When Bridgestone announced it had gained a contract with Swindon-based bus company Thamesdown Transport in July it marked a new stage in the Japanese manufacturer’s UK market development plans. Since then, the company has revealed that it has agreed three other strategic contracts (with Plymouth City Bus, Veolia and First Bus), designed to strengthen its position. The largest of these deals will see the company supply new Bridgestone tyres to 4000 buses. From an already strong position in the truck side of the roughly 1.4 million unit TBR market, Bridgestone is now aiming to position itself for growth in the bus side of the business too.
Speaking to Tyres & Acessories, Bridgestone UK commercial tyre director, Greg Ward, said that the manufacturer had been reviewing the market conditions for some time (about two years) before deciding 2008 was the right time to get involved with this market segment. What the company will have observed during this period is that there are many barriers to entering the part of the commercial vehicle market. And furthermore not many manufacturers are actually in a place to be able to successful serve this market in general. Asked why this was the right time to enter a marketplace that has and such a high entry point, Ward explained that Bridgestone and its partners now have the right “products, services and infrastructure,” to properly service this segment.
The Thamesdown, First Bus, Veolia and Plymouth City Bus contracts vary in size, but the largest alone involves supplying almost half of the First Bus fleet (4000 out of roughly 9500 vehicles) and therefore means the first clutch of contracts represent a multimillion pound increase in commercial tyre business for Bridgestone. But is it profitable? “We wouldn’t be in it if it wasn’t,” Ward replied, adding, anyone can lose money in this business if they fail to handle it properly. Currently the bus contracts involve the fitment of new tyres, but the introduction of Qualitread retreads to these vehicles is set to follow in due course.
Commenting on why his company opted for Bridgestone, Paul Jenkins, managing director of Thamesdown Transport, supported Bridgestone’s assertion that is products, services and infrastructure are ready: “We were impressed by Bridgestone’s offering. We chose them over the other bidders due to their cost effective package and their full range of services.” Based in Swindon, Thamesdown Transport runs 110 vehicles.
Irrespective of the various different methods of calculating the market, Tyres & Accessories estimates that Bridgestone its edging in front as the UK’s leading truck and bus tyre supplier. This has been clear in various sectors of the truck segment for some time, but Bridgestone’s ability to stretch this to include its first few bus contracts suggests the long established dominance of the Michelin, Goodyear and Dunlop brands in this segment could be changing.
Bridgestone cements first Bandag deal
This summer T&A also learnt that, through is newly integrated sibling sister company Bandag, Bridgestone has confirmed contracts with Castle Cement, Lafarge and Cemex. Both contracts were won from other top three suppliers.