Not many years ago the large tyre manufacturers still thought they had better make haste and claim a stake in the apparently huge markets of China and India, since life does not favour latecomers. Their enthusiasm was kindled by the example of some car manufacturers, which quickly calculated and estimated a gigantic (sales) potential in these two countries alone with their joint populations of two billion. Some car manufacturers learnt quickly that opportunities are not limitless. Tyre manufacturers fared similarly. Pirelli supplied China with some know-how, which was gratefully received but did not provide Pirelli with a strong base. Nor did the Italians make money out of the technology transfer. Conti’s big plans for India are hardly mentioned any more. The Big Three – Goodyear, Bridgestone and Michelin – are present in both countries, but business is quiet. In India, 29 manufacturers run 41 factories with a maximum capacity of about 43 million tyres, but only 34 million pieces were manufactured in 1997/98, most of them (73 p.c.) for trucks and buses. And 60 p.c. of passenger car tyres are still cross-ply tyres, 1998 has only seen 3,3 million radials in this segment. Our British sister magazine TYRES &ACCESSORIES reported on the Indian tyre market at length; we publish an excerpt in this issue in our December issue, including a brief presentation of some individual companies active in this market.
Ford Ambitious to Become Largest Tyre Marketer in USA
American trends, schemes that have proved successful on the other side of the big pond, will spill over to Europe after a short delay. That has always been so. So watch out for the letters FCSD and remember that they stand for Ford Customer Service Division. The car giant has just started a strong advertising campaign in North America, introducing to the public America’s Newest Tire Store, a network of 2,400 of the current 5,000 Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealers. According to a Ford spokesman, this is the latest step in providing customers with everything they really need, and all at one stop. The Ford and Lincoln dealers, he claimed, have suitable business premises, sufficient relevant expertise and the scope to offer competitive prices – with the express advance warning that Ford has no intention to be cheap but will market tyres at a fair price. Tyre manufacturers build tyres to Ford specifications, the spokesman explained, and it would therefore only be a natural progression for the company to market original replacement parts. Thus only original equipment suppliers will be able to take part in the Ford replacement business. To give the project a kick-start the company currently runs a lavish and expensive TV campaign (costs are not disclosed), later to be supported and partly replaced by radio advertising and direct mailing. Carl Bergmann, Customer Service Operations Manager, can see no point in sending customers away in future when they want to buy tyres. And these are certainly not empty words: In July 1998 the Ford organisation sold a mere 700 tyres, the figure for this July was 97,000, and that is only a start. The sales target for the current year is one million tyres, three million in the year 2000, to be doubled again to six million units in 2001, at least according to a Ford Motor Co. spokesman talking to the press. These are large numbers indeed, but not unrealistically so, because if each of the currently participating 2,400 dealers only sells one set of tyres per day, the three-million barrier will be breached.
Michelin Reaps Benefits of Bridgestone and Goodyear Mistakes in the USA
The current winner in the American car tyre replacement business is Michelin. On the one hand, the French profit from the catastrophic supply situation of their two main competitors, Goodyear and Bridgestone, which achieve so-called fill rates of 60 p.c. or even less, but they also reap the benefits of the successful introduction and implementation of their multi-brand strategy, which has made a demand management possible. In contrast to their big competitors the French have a very clear brand policy with no further differentiation within a brand, and they no longer produce private brands, all of which considerably shortens the reaction time to changed market conditions. Goodyear and Bridgestone cannot achieve Michelin prices. The groups will not improve their unsatisfactory fill rates as long as they also manufacture large quantities of private brands. The Japanese cannot develop a multi-brand strategy since they lack a strong leading brand – Bridgestone not being blessed with a high degree of brand awareness everywhere in the USA. For a long time the Americans differentiated very strongly within the Goodyear brand; now they have to position Dunlop tyres as well. That will also mean the need for significant investment in the brands. Furthermore, Goodyear managers in particular are currently confronted by a hostile gut reaction from the trade, whether capable of rational explanation is neither here nor there.
The Technic Group - at one time the worlds biggest passenger car tyre retreader - is the latest company to succumb to the fall in demand for car retreads. Hopes that the Technic group would be sold as a going concern proved to be unfounded. The Administrative Receiver said: Since we were appointed, the company has continued to accumulate losses. Despite some early indications of interest, no offers were received for the business and we can see no realistic prospect of receiving an offer against a difficult background in the retread market. As a result we have no option but to close the business. 200 of the 250 employees have received redundancy notices and the Receivers will seek to dispose of the companys assets.
Goodyear revises wrong decision regarding the Gadsden Plant in Alabama
The company anticipated a reduction in demand and took the decision to cut most of the production capacity of its Gadsden plant. Only a few months later Goodyear is forced to immidiately employ 500 - 550 workers to meet the demand for Goodyear tyres in the USA.
Tyre manufacturer Cooper Avon wants to buy Siebe’s Automotive Devision. According to present information Cooper has to pay 244.5 million US-Dollar for the company which belongs to the British Invensys group.
Dunlop’s SP Sport 200 E has been given the Blue Angel quality seal of approval for nine sizes. The Blue Angel adheres to very strict guidelines and is especially for environment-friendly products and processes whose user qualities and safety aspects are in no way inferior to conventional products. Recipients are chosen by independent institutions. This new car tyre (speed indices H and V) is awarded the eco seal for qualities such as low noise level, the light weight of the product, fuel saving and reduced emissions thanks to its optimised rolling resistance. Dunlop’s winter tyre SP Winter Sport M 2 is currently being tested for exceptional environment-friendliness.
Three years of litigation about breach of styling rights and unauthorised copying in accordance with paragraph 1 UWG (law on unfair competition) have ended with a verdict in favour of BBS by the Federal Court of Justice, so announces the wheel manufacturer. BBS had sued an Italian manufacturer for producing and distributing an imitation of the BBS RX wheel and for damages. Following the defendant’s reply, an expert opinion on the design and a hearing at the provincial law court in Frankfurt the BBS case was to a large extent conceded: The wheel made by the Italian producer was declared to be an imitation of the new BBS RX wheel, which is new, original and therefore protected. There followed an appeal, several postponements and the exchange of a number of documents at the higher provincial court in Frankfurt, and then this verdict: The appeal of the Italian manufacturer was rejected; there was no serious doubt that it was a copy, and appeal to the Federal Court was not allowed. The costs have to be borne by the appellant. Therefore the verdict of the higher provincial court in Frankfurt of 19th November 1998 has the force of law.
Four years ago Südrad Autoräder GmbH und Co. KG had to call in the receiver, who in the meantime sold the aluminium wheel division of the company. Now the steel wheel production at Ebersbach has also found a new owner in the guise of Mefro Räderwerk Ronneburg GmbH. In 1999 Südrad with 600 employees will produce approximately five million car steel wheels as well as steel wheels for trucks and light trucks. The turnover is given as 140 million marks, and Südrad is back in the black now that the restructuring measures have been completed. Mefro had its origins in a wheel combine of the former GDR and now has an annual production of approximately two million steel wheels for agricultural and construction site vehicles as well as for industrial vehicles and fork lift trucks. With a workforce of about 220 employees Mefro has an annual turnover of approximately 60 million marks.
Nissan has confirmed that it is currently producing 1.35 million cars, which is 10 per cent less than last year. This amounts to the companys seventh recorded loss in the past eight years. C.O.E. Carlos Ghosn, who engineered the turnaround for Michelin in North America, is currently preparing a restructuring plan which will entail the loss of 21,000 jobs, or 14% of its worldwide workforce, by the year 2003. In the US, 1,000 jobs (10%) will go by March 2001, while in Japan, there are plans to close four factories.
Good news for motorists: Tyre prices are coming down fast, especially in popular sizes. So far we have heard of price reductions of up to 15 p.c. compared with the previous season. Unknown second and third lines of large groups compete for the bargain hunter with rock-bottom prices.
With a fuel consumption of less than three litres per hundred kilometres (approximately 95mpg) the new Volkswagen Lupo TDI sets new standards. The reduced consumption has been achieved by a combination of various measures; the use of light-weight forged wheels by Fuchs is for instance a contributory factor to the reduced weight of the vehicle. On the tyre side, Bridgestone/Firestone has scored in original equipment with the B 381 Ecopia, size 155/65 R14 75T. The name, made up from ecology and utopia is also the statement of a programme, which will exploit experience gained in the construction of this tyre for future Bridgestone/Firestone products. The tyre manufacturer achieved weight reduction by using aramid instead of steel in the belt and light-weight polyester in the casing. Thanks to its clever rubber compound formula the tyre’s rolling resistance has also been optimised and at the same time has fulfilled the tyre manufacturer’s ecologically motivated desire for noise reduction. As an equivalent for the winter season Bridgestone recommends the WT 12 tread pattern.
In an interview with the rather left-wing daily paper Liberation Edouard Michelin gave his comment on the so-called Michelin Affair. On 8th September the group reported a 20 p.c. rise in its half-yearly profits while at the same time declaring that it wanted to shed 7,500 employees in European factories within three years. The Michelin boss attributes the unusually fierce public reaction, by French politicians in particular, to insufficient public discussion. It has to be possible, he argued, to take the right entrepreneurial measures in time to achieve a rapid improvement in productivity, which is 15 to 20 p.c. below that of the group’s main competitors, Bridgestone and Goodyear. And the only way to do that, he claimed, is through accelerated growth on the basis of a new sales policy and through job cuts. Edouard Michelin reminded his critics that in the last twenty years the group had twice been faced with extinction, that it had needed to lose 25,000 employees in France and in spite of that had issued only 186 dismissal notices. Asked about the Lex Michelin (a change of law to accommodate the Michelin case, dealing with the application for state aid to facilitate social plans), Edouard Michelin pointed out that the group had indeed received a French state subsidy for its social plans in the past amounting to four or five billion francs, but that at the same time the French state had received 45 billion francs in social contributions, taxes and other levies. Today the group still makes 30 p.c. of total investments within France, he continued, and retains 30 p.c. of the production capacity in the country, although the domestic market takes only 15 p.c. of total sales. Though keen to dust off certain parts of the company, he said, he wants to preserve its culture, personality and customs. As the head of a family business he sees himself as permanently accountable and cannot afford not to make long-term plans, because he is only too well aware of having to defend his decisions also in five or ten years’ time. On the question of worldwide merger plans Edouard Michelin said that his company is in a position to play an active part. Our gaze is directed towards Asia. Michelin has a talent for growth.
BFGoodrich Sends New “All Terrain T/A” into the Race
Recently BFGoodrich had chosen Dubai (United Arab Emirates) as the venue for the introduction of the latest 4x4 BFGoodrich tyre. The new tyre is the All Terrain T/A for mixed application on and off the road, a new/further development of its predecessor, Radial All Terrain T/A which will now be completely replaced by the new model in all sizes, with some more sizes added. This demonstrates the importance BFGoodrich attaches to the All Terrain tyres, a regularly updated line, which has sold well for more than 20 years. The ‚All Terrain T/A‘, along with ‚Mud Terrain T/A‘ and ‚Long Trail T/A‘ are some of our most popular 4x4 models, explained Matthias Utzinger, Kléber’s off-road product manager. The new T/A will be the most generally useful tyre in the product range, conceived for mixed applications, i.e. for light off-road work but also for the road and for drivers keen on sporty driving, without ever losing sight of its use as a work-horse. The forecast for Germany is approximately 100,000 new registrations for off-road cars in 1999, meaning more than 750,000 vehicles of that kind on the road in 2000, according to the tyre manufacturer’s market data, with 4x4 tyre replacement sales amounting to about 700,000. Thus the revised/new All Terrain T/A may well lead to BFGoodrich getting a larger slice of the cake.