ETD aims to establish the Leao commercial tyre brand

Marcus Reedijk is totally convinced about the Leao brand’s potential

Marcus Reedijk is both founder and managing director of European Tyre Distributors B.V. (ETD), a company specialising in the import of Chinese tyres for the European market. ETD is located in Strijen, near the port of Rotterdam, and anyone visiting its offices can’t help but notice when driving down the Strijener Industriestraat that the road is lined left and right by enormous warehouses belonging to various companies that all bear the name Reedijk. These companies are the product of an extraordinary “tyre family dynasty,” and each has a history that in some way involved Marcus Reedijk at some point in his 45-year tyre industry career, even if he’s no longer personally associated with them today.

Now 67 years old, Reedijk is still actively involved in the industry through his activities at ETD, however he is working towards a time when he will take a more passive role. “We now want to intensively focus upon strengthening and further building up the Leao commercial vehicle tyre brand’s market position,” the managing director told Tyres & Accessories. “Then in several years’ time I will be able to step back from day-to-day operations.”

Although the “tyre thoroughbred” has been self-employed for the last 41 years, he’s never been drawn to up-front, public roles. He prefers to remain in the background and pull the strings. His corporate philosophy could thus be described as ‘understated’. Yet in regards to the Far East, Marcus Reedijk is something of a pioneer; he first did business in Taiwan during the 1970s before extending this to Thailand and other countries, and was an early arrival in the People’s Republic of China. Several tyre brands that nobody today would associate with him were first brought to Europe by Marcus Reedijk. And now he aims to establish Leao.

While a tour through the well-stocked ETD warehouse reveals the presence of numerous brands, such as (car-like) trailer tyre label Security and the Taifa radial and cross-ply agricultural tyre brand, Reedijk – who has seen the inside of more Chinese tyre factories than most tyre industry professionals – comments that “in light of the enormous steps forward in quality made by Shandong Linglong Rubber (the Leao brand’s manufacturer is currently the third largest tyre maker in China and estimated to be in 18th place globally) I see great potential for Leao in Europe.”

Part of the European growth strategy for Leao is Wolfgang Lüttschwager, who supports the marketing of the brands ETD deals in – and in doing so draws upon many years of wholesaling experience. “Although it’s no walk in the park, it is pleasing to see how substantially our customer base in Europe has grown,” says the German tyre industry veteran. “People do business when they understand and trust each other, and face-to-face contact is an important aspect of this.”

Marcus Reedijk sought a new challenge after selling his Reedijk Banden Import B.V. (RBI) business to Van den Ban in spring 1999. Although European tyre Distributors already existed as a company, it really only came into its own at the start of the new millennium after switching solely to container business and declaring itself a “specialist in tyres from China,” particularly, Reedijk stresses, commercial vehicle tyres (the company distributes the Event car tyre brand, however the managing director only briefly mentions Event during our conversation, referring to the brand “a subject in its own right”). For Leao, ETD is the European importer of its truck and agricultural tyre lines, and also imports some earthmover and industrial tyres. All Leao tyres in the ETD portfolio are radials.

ETD has neither an ambition to compete with the major, well-known truck tyre brands, nor does it, in contrast with some other Asian suppliers, wish to enter the original equipment business – the company doesn’t have the staff for that, Reedijk comments. “And we are realistic enough to realise that within Europe, the major tyre manufacturers are not simply going to hand over any further market share to Chinese tyres.” It isn’t possible to be the cheapest with Leao as the product is simply too good and developed with the European market (including the tyre label) in mind, and the portfolio has been built up to include a very complete range of truck and bus tyres, including winter fitments. Leao is a budget brand that works well, but is by no means a low-budget brand of questionable provenance or a brand lacking a marketing plan and strategy.

Marketing “Leao, the affordable alternative” should pay dividends for everyone, says Reedijk, and for this reason ETD’s model excludes intermediaries. As a supply chain becomes longer more people want to profit from it, and it becomes less viable. ETD aims to provide the most direct route from China to efficient distribution partners. Overheads are kept low at ETD and the company doesn’t want an “army of expensive field staff” that must be correspondingly remunerated in return for doing a good job. The ETD team is of a manageable size, and this aids flexibility, adaptability and speed. Long-time employees, sales manager Jeannette Bertolin and Anne Marie Hartmanns, are both multilingual and communicate with customers throughout Europe, can answer every enquiry immediately and ensure that orders are quickly processed. ETD is so streamlined and well-placed that the company, in its role as a conventional wholesaler, can offer very good prices for those wanting entire containers or large volumes, and can also offer good prices to those only requiring smaller quantities. And another unique asset benefitting ETD is an eight-person branch in Weihai, in China’s Shandong Province – directly where the tyres are made.

Marcus Reedijk jokingly refers to himself as a “savings bank” for financing the company’s inventory. All these years in the tyre industry has paid off for him. And his latest role as direct mediator between tyre factory and dealer should not only pay off for him alone, but rather for all involved and also for the Leao brand.

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