Truck Point Sales Triple 2005 Levels as Bridgestone Looks Forward to Next Decade
Bridgestone recently completed its 2009 series of Truck Point Roadshows, presenting to 240 people at five venues across the UK. The roadshows are a vehicle for Bridgestone to communicate with its network of servicing dealers and present the latest news regarding fleets, products and business growth. The main messages from these roadshows were the growth of the business, and how to improve further on the service to their fleet customers, through IT tools and tyre husbandry.
In the last four years Bridgestone’s UK truck tyre fleet business has evolved from an influential player into a market leader. This includes major fleet gains such as SITA waste, ARR Craib, TRL, Rotala and Shearings in 2009 alone. When you consider that fleet sales through from Bridgestone’s Truck Point network of independent dealers have tripled in the same period, it is clear that Truck Point has and will play a key part in the company’s future development. If the title of this year’s Truck Point roadshow (Into the Next Decade) is anything to go by, Bridgestone is banking on the continued and long-term prosperity of this key distribution channel. To this end Bridgestone also gave details of how the Bandag integration is progressing and news of a new product launch scheduled for 2010.
Currently Truck Point’s 122 dealers run 317 outlets and service 60 national customers and a total of 90,000 tyres. Of these 75,000 casings are fed back into the company’s Bulldog factory in Bourne, Lincolnshire for retreading – and all this with a less than 1 per cent complaint rate. Quality of service remains high on Truck Point’s 2010 agenda with expansion of Bridgestone’s LRQA external audit programme scheduled throughout the year. So far 92 dealers have received this accreditation (46 in 2007, 26 in 2008 and 20 this year), with the first phase of re-sampling set to begin at the end of this year, running through the first two quarters of 2010. During Truck Point’s Crewe Road Show, Tyres & Accessories witnessed four more dealers receiving their LRQA accreditations before the invited audience. These were: Barry Wilkinson Tyres (Bolton and Wythenshawe); Lodge Tyre (Leicester); TyreCraft (Bootle) and Tyremiles (Ashbourne).
Bridgestone to launch Ecopia truck tyre in 2010
Company representatives also previewed Bridgestone’s response to European legislative machine’s continuing fixation with rolling resistance and tyre noise. Next year, the company will release a brand new Ecopia truck tyre, which is designed to already be compliant with current and future legal requirements. It will also give Bridgestone and Truck Point an extra argument when it comes to negotiating fleet deals. The release is scheduled for the second half of 2010 when further details will no doubt be made available.
Bandag products now ‘fully integrated’ into Bridgestone
Speaking at last week’s Bridgestone Truck Point roadshow, Bridgestone UK retread sales manager Les Lawrence and Bandag UK sales manager Ross Medlyn explained the latest developments in the continuing process of integrating Bandag into Bridgestone. While everyone agrees that the process of integration remains an ongoing project, Ross Medlyn specifically described the two operations’ current status as “fully integrated.” What this means is that Bridgestone and Bandag products are already being sold side-by-side, with the two ranges evolving to reflect the influence of the merger.
In pure business terms, the first significant fruit of the newly integrated businesses is the transfer of 8000 DSV trailers from Bandag Eurofleet to Bridgestone’s Truck Point network. However, looking at newly printed promotion literature shows the progress made in the company’s marketing strategy since Bridgestone and Bandag’s merger was officially completed on 1 June 2007 as well. Across all five of Bridgestone’s commercial vehicle segments (long haul, regional, on/off road, bus and light truck) customers are now presented with Qualitread, Bandag and Bulldog options to complement Bridgestone and Firestone-branded new tyres. The retread department has also resolved to consolidate its retread offering and integrate some of its lesser known brands (namely its Truck Point and budget retread ranges) into the Bulldog line up over the coming months. The first phase of this means that in 2010 the current Qualitread, Bandag, Bulldog, Truck Point and budget lines will become just Qualitread, Bandag and Bulldog. The Kingsway retread brand has reportedly already been phased out between 2008 and 2009.
Another example of Bandag’s integration into Bridgestone can be seen in the range of treads that are now and will in future be on offer. A number of Bandag and Bulldog patterns that were previously based on competitive patterns will now be replaced altogether by a newly designed application specific range of treads and compounds designed by Bandag.
There are also clear implications for the manufacturing side of the business. Prior to the integration, Bridgestone’s Qualitread treads were produced at the company’s manufacturing plant in Spain, together with some off-take from Marangoni in Italy. Moving forward, all Bridgestone’s pre-cured treads will now be produced at Bandag’s Lanklaar, Belgium plant. In addition Bulldog Remoulds, which was bought by Bridgestone in April 2005, last year became a Bandag franchisee bringing the number of Bandag franchisees in the UK to 9 (Republic of Ireland is home to three more). There was even the suggestion that, despite widespread consolidation in the UK retread manufacturing sector, Bandag’s UK network might actually expand.
As a result of the Bulldog purchase and the subsequent Bandag acquisition, Bridgestone’s retread market share has grown markedly. Taking the UK market as an example, in 2006 Bridgestone products occupied roughly 3 per cent of the million strong retread market. This year, sales will have increased siz-fold, which is particularly impressive when you consider that, due to the recession, the UK retread market as a whole was down some 20 per cent at around 800,000 units at the beginning of 2009. However, despite this increase in market share, the next target is a further 40 per cent increase in sales by 2014.