Michelin continues to invest in UK manufacturing operations
Speaking during Challenge Bibendum last week, managing general partner, Michel Rollier confirmed that Michelin continues to invest in its Dundee and Ballymena plants in the UK, where the firm is said to have made “tremendous efforts” to improve the efficiency and productivity of its plants.
Having earlier described Germany as Michelin’s most import market in Europe due to its unique combination of overall size, high concentration of quality OEMs and very strong winter tyre market (this year’s Challenge was in Berlin after all), Michel Rollier also took care to point out that with OE accounting for between 20 and 25 per cent of sales, the fact that the UK market doesn’t provide the same access to OEMs, volume or winter sales as Germany is outweighed by the thriving and relatively dynamic nature of the UK market. Instead he said that the challenge for the UK tyre market is “consumers are not always brand orientated” and “we now have a couple of large dealer networks to deal with.” The latter remark can be interpreted as a veiled reference Itochu’s purchase of Kwik-Fit, a decision that saw the conglomerate add a leading position in UK tyre retail to its strong wholesale position (through Stapleton’s).
Speaking to Tyres & Accessories during the conference, Michelin UK and Ireland managing director Eric Le Corre spoke of how the company’s Dundee (passenger car), Ballymena (truck) and Stoke-on-Trent (retread) production facilities “certainly have an industrial future.” Indeed the UK plants are said to be “internationally competitive,” with the next stage being upgrading production to the latest key products that these factories should be making. No one is suggesting that the British Isles is suddenly going to become home to a new 15 million unit greenfield production plant, but there is still said to be significant scope for plants like this in what was described as “the most open market in Europe.”
Currently Michelin reports that all its plants (not just those situated in the British isles are at full capacity, with new plants in emerging markets on the way and expansion taking place at the firm’s mature market production bases in countries such as Germany, France and the UK.