Robin Shaw joins Bridgestone

Tyres & Accessories met with new Bridgestone North Region managing director in December, 42 days into his tenure

Aftermarket specialist aims to replicate success in the tyre sector

At the end of October 2014, Robin Shaw took over as the managing director of Bridgestone’s North Europe region, which includes the UK as well as the Nordic markets. Shaw replaced John McNaught who had been with the company for 12 years. He joined at a time when reorganisation is taking place within the wider European business and when a number of key UK and North region managers have either retired or gone off to pastures new. Tyres & Accessories caught up with Robin Shaw as he was en route to Brussels for one of many meetings he has had with European executives during the beginning of his tenure.

Shaw has decades of automotive industry experience, with positions at Dana, Unipart Group and Federal Mogul over the years. Most recently Shaw was managing director of Bosch Automotive – a role that saw him lead the business across the range of its sectors including those most relevant to tyres such as garage equipment, software and service. In addition Shaw held a kind of non-executive director role for Bosch GB, which saw him connect with the wider Bosch business – including power tools and boiler operations).

Bridgestone’s new north region managing director believes that the future can be bright for the brand. To this end there are said to be “a host of exciting plans for both Bridgestone and Firestone will bear fruit across Europe in 2015”. However it was generally too early for specifics when we met in December 2014. What we can say is that the short term priorities for the former Bosch director are to continue meeting senior staff members, customers and industry colleagues across the business, while continuing to strengthen his senior management team, which were boosted with the arrival of a new consumer sales director in December.

Longer term, exploring new channels will form just one of many projects, including the continued revitalisation of the Firestone brand in 2015, coinciding with a concerted programme of activities to cement Bridgestone as a desirable premium proposition.

“I don’t believe Bridgestone’s local reputation is as big as the brand itself,” says Shaw. And in this respect we can draw a parallel between Bridgestone and Bosch. Both premium brands that are known for quality, but both with unfulfilled potential in the UK market in particular.

During Shaw’s seven years at Bosch results were said to have been consistently strong, which hints at what the new Bridgestone MD means when he says that he wants to profitably grow market share.

While Shaw is clearly experienced with the wider aftermarket in general, this latest move market his first professional position in the tyre world. With this in mind, T&A asked how he is finding this new sector? “Half of it is similar – even some of the faces are familiar [it is worth pointing out that this is a reference to Shaw’s acquaintance with Apollo Vredestein UK MD and TyreSafe chairman Stuart Jackson, amongst others, who Shaw knew their shared aftermarket background]…the other half is quite different and I am have got to learn.”

“There are different channels and different dependencies”, Shaw continued, adding: “some things are more advanced, such as the fleet sector, and some things are less advanced [than elsewhere in the aftermarket], such as logistics.

Moving onto questions of price sensitivity, which is particularly relevant to the UK market, Shaw commented: “You can’t change everybody’s minds about price but you can demonstrate value for money. The sector’s obsession with price certainly represents a challenge, but it certainly isn’t impossible to grow premium brands.

“People care about their families’ safety and wellbeing. As an industry we need to get a clear ‘value for money’ message across to motorists, and that our premium products are amongst the safest and most durable anywhere.”

Finally, Shaw – who was proudly wearing a BEN pin badge when T&A met with him, is keen to position Bridgestone closer to the automotive industry charity. He was made a vice president in 2001 and appointed as trustee for the charity in 2003, which exists to provide care and support to people in the industry who have entered times of hardship and distress: “BEN is a great passion of mine and I am grateful that Bridgestone are happy for this to continue” However that is not to say that he will do anything to force a link between the charity and the business.

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