BIPAVER: New leadership brings new clout
Association representatives ready for important tasks
The retreading industry has worked hard over the years to compete with the new tyre industry and to be heard on political, economic and product issues at European level. Since the industry is strongly shaped by medium-sized and smaller companies, active and influential advocacy thus plays an important role, as we witnessed during the formulation and successful implementation of UNECE regulations 108 and 109 in 2006, a regulation effectively giving retreads type approval equivalency with new tyres. BIPAVER has spearheaded the retreading industry’s lobbying in Europe for many years now, and in April its administration and technical representation was taken over by the German Tyre Retail and Vulcanisation Trade Association (BRV). The association’s two managing directors, general secretary Yorick M. Lowin and technical secretary Michael Schwämmlein, explain why this change took place, what tasks the future holds and what they both can leverage together with BIPAVER’s committees.
The acronym BIPAVER stands for Bureau International Permanent des Associations de Vendeurs et Rechapeurs de Pneumatiques, which literally translates as ‘permanent international office of tyre dealers and retreaders’. The ‘office’ views itself as a lobby for the interests of Europe’s retreading industry and aims – as a loosely connected network of associations – to attain the status of a European Economic Interest Grouping (EEIG) in the near future. The organisation was founded in 1954 and initially based in Switzerland, but much has changed over the years.
BIPAVER represents three primary groups of members. The first of these are national retreading associations, including the BRV in Germany, the Retread Manufacturers Association (RMA) in the United Kingdom, Italy’s Associazione Italiana Ricostruttori Pneumatici (AIRP) and eight further national bodies. The second group covers individual members, such as companies occupying a strong position in markets not represented by a national association. For example the retreader Colmec, although a Swedish firm, effectively represents the Polish market via its large retreading factory near Gdansk. Thirdly, BIPAVER also welcomes supplier-members. These include Bandag, EIB, Kraiburg, Vipal, Marangoni, Rema Tip Top, as well as machinery manufacturers such as Zeiss. New tyre manufacturer Apollo also belongs to these ranks. All share a desire for retreading-related interests to be strongly represented at a European level, both politically and economically. BIPAVER plays an important role here, as even the national associations often lack access to the relevant levels of European political decision-making, such as the European Commission or the Geneva-based UNECE.
BIPAVER’s committees are typical of those found in clubs and associations. They include the Executive Board, General Assembly and the Technical Committee, as well as the administrative Secretariat, to which belongs the general secretary and technical secretary. These committees are organised and cooperate as follows: In principle, BIPAVER is active on two levels. The political level involves lobbying in Brussels and Strasbourg on issues such as anti-dumping measures against new tyres from China or the importance of retreading in the context of the European Green Deal and circular economy. These issues are discussed within the General Assembly and subsequently with the Executive Board. This level is coordinated by the secretary general and the Board, and also involves coordination and exchange with other industry-related associations.
The association also conducts parallel and sometimes complementary work on a technical and regulatory level. The Technical Committee comes into play here. This consists of representatives from material suppliers, individual retreaders and associations. In addition, BIPAVER represents the industry when dealing with the UNECE in Geneva in order to influence European legislation in areas pertaining to retreaded tyres, for example in relation to UNECE regulations or tyre labelling. This work is coordinated by the technical secretary in exchange with the ETRTO and representatives of the ECE member countries in Geneva.
The BIPAVER board consists of an elected president, currently Jukka Lankolainen, representative of the Finnish association ARL, and a deputy, Tim Hercock from Britain’s RMA. The Executive Committee also includes the general secretary and the technical secretary, who together form the Secretariat. Both functions are now performed by the managing directors of the German BRV. Yorick M. Lowin became BIPAVER’s general secretary on 1 April and Michael Schwämmlein was appointed the new technical secretary. The latter succeeds Hans-Jürgen Drechsler, who recently retired after serving as technical secretary for a number of years; he also took over Drechsler’s former management position within the BRV. Schwämmlein has acted as technical advisor to BIPAVER and its UNECE representative in Geneva for more than ten years, first on a voluntary basis and then full-time for the 26 months prior to his appointment to the role of BRV technical secretary at the end of last year.
With the departure of Tim van der Rijken as general secretary of Dutch retreading association VACO late in March and his stepping down as general secretary of BIPAVER at the same time, a vacancy appeared within the European association’s management. The BIPAVER Secretariat moved to the BRV’s headquarters in Bonn, Germany on 1 April, bringing to a close VACO’s 15-year stint managing the Secretariat. In addition to Lowin and Schwämmlein respectively holding the positions of general secretary and technical secretary, BIPAVER is now officially headquartered in Bonn.
Italian retreading association AIRP, together with its German counterpart the largest BIPAVER member association, was also a contender for hosting the Secretariat. “As close cooperation between the two BIPAVER key positions of general secretary and technical secretary within an organisational unit was considered expedient, and because the BRV enjoyed a certain recognition in Brussels due to its activities in the anti-dumping campaign, switching the Secretariat to the BRV was proposed to the members, a measure supported by the AIRP and the BIPAVER Executive Board. This proposal was confirmed and implemented from 1 April 2020.” VACO remains a BIPAVER member and supporter. The president and vice president are elected every two years at a general assembly, the Secretariat remains in office until further notice or until the association’s seat changes.
BIPAVER has dealt with and successfully influenced a number of important issues in past years. Such as in 2006, when formulating and implementing UNECE regulations 108 and 109. “At that time, more and more type approval procedures for new tyres were being conceptualised and implemented at the UNECE level. BIPAVER helped to ensure that the aforementioned regulations included the development of an adapted type approval for retreaded tyres with the same profile of requirements for product testing as for new tyres, and that retreaded and new tyres were thus treated on equal terms,” recall Yorick M. Lowin and Michael Schwämmlein. BIPAVER has also ensured these laws continue to be adapted in order to make certain that the development of new tyres takes retreading’s specific circumstances into account, such as in regards to snowflake markings for retreaded winter tyres. BIPAVER recently represented the interests of Europe’s retreading industry in the European Union’s anti-dumping proceedings against imported budget tyres from China, an action it undertook to “secure the livelihood of the predominantly medium-sized sector, which is increasingly disappearing as a result of unfair competition.” According to Lowin and Schwämmlein, one of the latest important issues BIPAVER is championing is “preparing the proposal for a method of labelling retreaded tyres (in collaboration with the ETRTO) analogous to the EU labelling of new tyres, but adapted to the needs of retreading.”
Despite important decisions that BIPAVER has influenced in recent years, the office is constantly confronted with its own limits. “Restricted financial and human resources – BIPAVER has no full-time employees – results in a limited lobbying influence, for example in comparison to ETRMA / ETRTO, CLEPA or other associations with better financial and human resources,” says the General Secretariat in Germany. BIPAVER is financed by regular membership fees and occasionally through special budgets for certain projects, such as the ReTyre project. “In addition, the topic of ‘retreading’ and the associated industry are virtually unknown in political circles and often little significance is attached to their concerns. Another problem is the frequent generalised misgivings towards retreaded tyres and prejudices about these products. They stem from the early days of retreading and persist, although mostly no longer having any basis. Both make lobbying all the more tedious and complex,” emphasise Schwämmlein and Lowin.
Nevertheless, both men recognise important issues that must be addressed in future. “Due to the broader topic of environmental and resource conservation, retreading will have to gain in importance and acceptance. BIPAVER strives to promote this politically and to promote retreaded tyres as a ‘green product’ on a national and international level. It is also important to make adjustments at the UNECE level – where BIPAVER acts as a stakeholder for retreaders in Europe – to ensure that retreaded tyres retain the same status as new tyres in the long term. This is the only way to ensure their legality and approval for use in a wide variety of applications.”