The clock is ticking for combustion engines and conventional tyres
The UK government has decided to ban the sale of both new petrol and new diesel cars from 2040. The goal isn’t as ambitious as Norway’s, which aims to do the same by 2025. India thinks it can do it by 2031. And France is on par with the UK, also aiming to ban sales of new combustion engine-based cars by 2040. However, in the UK at least, electric cars sales currently represent less than 1 per cent of new registrations. Therefore a lot has to happen between now and 2040 for this new rule to become reality. What is clear is that there is now real legislative momentum in favour of electric vehicles in the UK and that this will have an inevitable impact on OE suppliers, and in turn the UK replacement tyre market, especially in three key areas: weight, torque and rolling resistance.
At the end of last year, during the Paris Motor Show, Michelin reaffirmed its position on tread depth. The leading French tyre manufacturer believes a tyre should perform well throughout its whole life. And seeing as the European legal tread depth limit is 1.6mm, this means all the way down to this particular tread depth. Taken in isolation, this is a strong argument that basically no-one would contradict. So why did we immediately receive strong feedback from companies and associations? What are the counter arguments? And what are the implications of adopting such a stance?
Re-globalisation of the international tyre market?
In the last few weeks, Apollo has initiated production at its new Hungary tyre factory and launched a brand new European truck tyre range (see Company News section pages 32 – 24); Doublestar has confirmed that it is the only remaining bidder in the race for 42 per cent of Kumho Tire (see pages 36 - 37); and as we went to press, Finnish tyre maker Nokian announced that it will build its third production plant, this time in the USA. All this points to what we might call a re-globalisation trend. Rather than businesses from the large so-called developed nations expanding around the globe, this second wave of international expansion sees the roles reversing to some extent. While before the Western nations were looking to invest in fast-growing “emerging” economies, now the proverbial shoe is on the other foot and large companies in what used to be called the BRIC nations are investing in more developed tyre markets.
As we transition into spring, many think of new-born lambs and flowering bulbs as symbols of the new life of the year ahead. However, for accountants and many others working in the finance side of things, the beginning of April marks the end of the tax year. Along with the end of the tax year come a reasonably regular slew of motorist spending analyses. Two such surveys caught Tyres & Accessories’ eye because they offer insights into what the tyre-related “cost of ownership” is in practical terms.
The UK economy grew 0.6 per cent in the October-to-December period. Taking the year as a whole, the economy grew 2 per cent, 10 per cent slower than the growth of 2.2 per cent achieved in 2015. Good news, I hear you say. But, as with many things in life, the details tell a more complicated story.
Many sources, such as the BBC, contend that this better-than-expected growth is because of increased consumer spending during the last quarter of the year. However, it is also worth pointing out that UK car production achieved a 17-year high in 2016, according to the latest figures published by SMMT. This comes at the same time that the motor manufacturer’s association reported new car registrations of just under 2.7 million for the year – itself another record. This being the case, it is worth taking a closet look at the figures and the messages give us in the inextricably linked tyre sector as well as the economy as a whole.
New year. New diary. New balance sheet. New company? In this respect, 2016 got off to a flying start. No sooner had the year begun than we received news of some high profile, three-digit-million pound mergers and acquisitions. The first and the largest was the acquisition of well-known garage data supplier Autodata (see page 32, Company New section for complete details). However, within 24 hours this was followed by the potentially UK tyre wholesale and retail-changing announcement that Sumitomo Rubber Industries had acquired Micheldever Tyre Services.
Sumitomo Rubber acquires Sport Direct International’s Dunlop brand rights
On 27 December, Japan’s Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ltd. entered into an agreement with UK-based sporting goods retailer Sports Direct International plc to acquire the international trademark rights for the Dunlop brand and the brand’s sporting goods and licencing businesses. The transaction carries a purchase price of US$137.5 million.
No review of 2016 would be complete without some reference to Brexit. Before the referendum result on 23 June, few people thought it would happen. Now the vote of 52 per cent in favour of leaving the European Union has long been counted, we can’t avoid talking about Brexit. Furthermore, with Donald Trump having won the US presidential election on 8 November in what he predicted would be “Brexit+++” the impact of the UK vote has taken on even greater significance.
Tariff time again, but will they make a difference?
It’s tariff time again. The US government has imposed trade sanctions on US-produced OTR and industrial tyres before. They have done so with car tyres twice before. This time it’s truck tyres. But are they effective? Will they halt the rise of Chinese tyre manufacturers in general? And what does it mean for those doing business with truck tyres in the UK and Europe?
Sometimes tyre people are creatures of habit. They like what they know and they know what they like. So when change comes it can feel disorientating. But change is also the engine of progress. And standing still is virtually synonymous with going backwards.
You’ve heard of software as a service (or SaaS). But tyres as a service? If you haven’t heard of SaaS, the chances are you have transacted with a business model based on SaaS’s subscription-centred thinking. The popularity of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify and Amazon music make this point. You pay your money and access to your favourite media is simply included. Now transpose this set-up into the world of tyres.
Last month, talk of tyre testing irregularities came to the fore following Nokian’s admissions of “mistakes” in this area. In the April edition of Tyres & Accessories we follow up on this story in some detail with a survey of leading manufacturers’ responses to the issue of the day and an exclusive interview with Nokian president and CEO Ari Lehtoranta. While the detailed views of the world’s leading tyre makers are many and varied, they are all unified in their denials of any underhand behaviour relating to magazine and association tyre testing (see Top tyre manufacturers deny involvement in tyre test manipulation for the full story). And yet Nokian’s Lehtoranta has clearly pointed the finger at the broader industry on a number of occasions in the past – and apparently is continuing to do so.
As in life, when it comes to tyre testing, honesty is the best policy. Nokian Tyres’ “worst day ever” happened at the end of February – with the Finnish manufacturer and well-known winter tyre specialist accused of manipulating tyre test results for a decade and then apologising for “mistakes” relating to tyre tests. The two quickest responses to the story were from Nokian Tyres itself and – more surprisingly – Michelin, which deftly pre-empted the widening of questions relating to tyre testing by putting out a statement of its own. As a result, both Nokian and Michelin have adopted exactly the right approach, from a communications perspective at least. Looking at the story through this lens we can see practical examples of the golden rules of PR in action – control the narrative, take initiative and tell the truth.
The morning we went to press we awoke to the news that David Cameron has almost negotiated an “emergency brake” deal. In other words, the British Prime Minister is working to control the number of migrants entering the country and the amount of benefits the state should have to pay them. Early indications suggest that Cameron will be able to pull the “emergency brake” for up to four years if the UK can prove Britains social and welfare system is under “excessive strain” from immigration. However, all this obscures the wider political debate that is going on within British politics and the conservative party itself. And it belies the fact that parties of all colours are positioning themselves politically ahead of the UK referendum on whether or not to remain a member of the European Union.
New year, new trends It seems a bit pessimistic to start 2016 with a reference to recession. Nevertheless, when Bank of England deputy governor Minouche Shafik suggested the UK tyre industry is in the grip of recession-based consumer behaviour at the end of 2015 she highlighted an important point. The market is encountering different purchasing […]