This publication stands by a long-standing precedent of being a-political. Rather like the saying that it is bad manners to talk religion or politics while dining, we have historically opted not to take a line on such issues. Propriety aside, there is another particular good reason for this approach. During the nearly eight decades since Tyres & Accessories was published in 1946, 16 prime ministers and many more governments have come and gone, but one thing has remained: the motoring public’s demand for tyres has continued and even grown in the medium and long-term. But this column isn’t finishing school, so why the discussion on protocol? We don’t normally engage in politics, but this month politics engaged with the tyre business more directly than ever before when US President Donald Trump told US motorists: “Don’t buy GOODYEAR TIRES”, adding: “Get better tires [sic] for far less!” (see pages President Trump attacks Goodyear for further details of the furore).
The road to recovery – MOT spikes, diagnostics and all-season tyres in context
With the UK and many other European countries having experienced three months of lockdown, most sources are predicting full-year 2020 car tyre sales declines of around 25 per cent. The most optimistic appear to be suggesting 10 per cent drop, but how likely is a 90 per cent recovery by the end of the year? The good news is that there are reasons to suggest the post-lockdown tyre market is on the road to recovery.
Looking forward to recovery – be it L, U or V-shaped
Last month this column considered the range of 2020 market projections that existed. In short, as the column concluded, the consensus is that tyre demand will decline somewhere between 15 and 26 per cent during the course of this year. However, such a conclusion may also be on the conservative side. Certainly, when you talk with tyre wholesalers and distributors on the ground, some of those that didn’t opt to close their doors for a few weeks experienced even more marked declines in the short-term. Reports of tyre shops running on demand 70 to 75 per cent less than pre-lockdown levels are not uncommon. And yet, as lockdown eases across various UK and European markets – as well as beyond – the focus is quite rightly shifting to recovery.
Things are changing so quickly at the moment that most analyses end up little more than speculation two weeks later. That’s why Tyrepress contains both the latest news and seeks to set such developments into their medium- and long-term contexts. Take our Tyre Retail coverage for example (see 2020 UK tyre retail ranking and Which garages are open during lockdown) where we list both the current proportions of open tyre retailers and analyse the overall UK tyre retail landscape in its seven-year context.
By the time you read this a quarter of the world will be on some kind of lockdown along with virtually every car plant in Europe and many tyre factories. We are in uncharted territory. And, as ETRMA secretary general Fazilet Cinaralp said recently, we have to brace ourselves for “one of the biggest challenges our industry has ever faced”. And yet there have already been numerous examples of endeavour, enterprise and generosity in the face of such adversity.
As the February 2020 issue of Tyres & Accessories goes to press, the United Kingdom is officially leaving the European Union after three years of intense dispute and debate. At the same time, 2019 wasn’t a great year for the automotive and tyre industries (see page 36 onwards for further details of what has transpired during the last 12 months). And with a no-deal scenario presenting the possibility of import tariffs on and parts, 2020 doesn’t look like it is going to be a whole bunch better. However, while the disappointing performance of the car and tyre markets is linked to Brexit, the issues are not one and the same.
Counterfeiting: Flattery or just illegal imitation?
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, according to Oscar Wilde. But businesses don’t tend to be so charitable in their interpretation of such actions. Indeed, industrial counterfeiting, copyright breaches and general contempt for intellectual property are all-too common. The most recent example of copyright dispute in the tyre industry saw one of the world’s largest and longest established tyremakers pitted against a relative unknown.
Goodyear and Halfords moves represent the virtualization of the tyre distribution chain
The ongoing effects of import tariffs, Brexit uncertainty and structural changes in the distribution chain have all affected the tyre business this year. As well as featuring the latest motorsport news and covering market developments in our regular features, this month’s Tyres & Accessories focuses on a number of key examples of changes in the marketplace in our Review of the Year feature. But one trend stands out above the others – virtualization. In short, increasing moves towards electric and autonomous vehicles (complete with their inherent sensorisation tendencies), coupled with changes in vehicle (and tyre) ownership models such as MaaS (Mobility as a Service) are driving changes in the tyre market that are resulting in the virtualizing of parts of the distribution chain.
Tyre people often remind us that the tyre is a vehicle’s only point of contact with the ground. This is, of course, true and a very salient point. However, as tyres get smarter, so are roads and infrastructure.
This month we face the latest Brexit deadline. The deadline Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would rather “die in a ditch” than overshoot. However, as we go to press no-one knows if we will Brexit on this date; and if we do, what kind of Brexit it will be. We reported how automotive manufacturers and their suppliers have made their feelings known en masse here, but the broader truth is that the details of the subject remain a great unknown. So, let’s look to the future and how more businesses what to make their future an ecologically sustainable one.
Range anxiety, ADAS and unexpected electric vehicle consequences
The future is electric and the automotive market is rapidly moving in such a voltaic direction. But the transition is far from complete and the switch to autonomous vehicles is even further off. In the interim we all have to be aware of some of the unexpected consequences that the introduction of new technologies brings. The two clearest examples are range anxiety and ADAS concerns.
New chapter in politics parallels new chapter in UK automotive manufacturing
As we all now know, Boris Johnson became the United Kingdom’s new Prime Minister on 24 July. The first thing he did was replace almost the entire cabinet, with a reshuffle of unprecedented proportions. Next, he gave his maiden speech on the steps of 10 Downing Street, with an address that sought to build a platform for economic and political optimism against the recent backdrop of Brexit stagnation. Not only will we leave the EU by 31 October, we are going to do it in style, he effectively said. In doing so, Boris – as he is affectionately known – revealed as much about the changing nature of the automotive manufacturing industry and its suppliers as he did about British politics.
Bridgestone pulling away at the top of global tyre manufacturer rankings
This month’s magazine includes our annual leading tyre manufacturers table (click here for more). Ranking the world’s biggest and big tyre firms in this way gives everyone a baseline reference for gauging different firms’ performance and – if previous years are anything to go by – it can be a real conversation starter as well.
At the time of going to press, the President of the United States of America is mid-way through a state visit to the UK. Before he even landed on British soil, President Donald Trump stirred up controversy by tweeting his disparaging thoughts about London Mayor Sadiq Kahn. Whatever view one might hold about the propriety of Trump’s visit, we all know that 31-gun salutes and tea with the queen are about more than niceties. Sure enough less than 24 hours into the state visit, presidential talk turned to trade, with Trump backing out-going Prime Minister Theresa May to complete Brexit negotiations and promising a “phenomenal” trade deal between the US and UK. But all this is set against the backdrop of all-out trade war between the US and China at the same time that Europe is involved in somewhat more Cold War-esque trade skirmishes with China as well. The questions are: do such measures work? And what do they mean for the tyre business?
Can artificial intelligence reduce warranty claims?
At the start of April 2019, Bridgestone formally completed its billion-dollar acquisition of TomTom Telematics. The goal – as ever – is to capitalise on the benefits of big data, leveraging its usefulness in the cause of better tyres and greater efficiency for all stakeholders. Of course, Bridgestone is not the only tyremaker seeking to make the most of tyre data. Many have invested significantly in developing cyber tyres over the course of the last 10 to 15 years, harnessing the fact that tyres are a vehicles’ only point of contact with the road and therefore the only means of generating real-time road surface:vehicle contact data. This same approach also yields tyre condition and performance data, which can be used for everything from motorsport to commercial fleet applications. But what about in the manufacturing process itself?