Yokohama Introduces New High-Performance Tyre A 539
In the last week of March Yokohama Rubber Co. presented the new A 539 tyre to the European trade press at the Japanese D-Parc (Daigo Proving Ground and Research Center). Thirty-three sizes of this tyre will be available in Europe, about 20 of them are already in the market, the remaining sizes to be introduced within the next four weeks. The A 539 has an asymmetrical tread pattern and, according to the manufacturer, the excellent qualities of sportiness, quiet running and good cornering stability on dry and especially on wet roads.
Speculation is now at an end: on 14th April, the German tyre sales company Reifen Junginger was sold. The new owner is Josef Herl, MD of point S Reifen Herl GmbH and one of the founders of sales cooperative Partner GmbH. Herl plans to completely restructure the new point S Reifen Junginger over the coming months.
Three Goodyear plants have become the first sites in the world to be certified under the new global ISO Technical Specification 16949. The plants are Fulda (Germany), Amiens (France) and the Luxembourg Technical Centre. TS 16949 is expected to be recognised as a standard by all car manufacturers worldwide.
Goodyears Chief Engineer of Product Design has warned of the economic cost of tyre under-inflation as gasoline prices reach a new high in the USA. Petrol consumption and tread life are adversely affected. A Goodyear survey showed up to 28p.c. of vehicles had seriously under-inflated tyres.
“Only Over My Dead Body” – Goodyear And Dunlop Brands Remain In Competition
Sylvain G. Valensi (58), who has 34 years service with Goodyear, latterly as Vice President Goodyear Europe, has, since the joint venture with Sumitomo Rubber Industries (SRI), assumed the role of Vice President of Goodyear Dunlop Tires Europe. Talking to this magazine during the recent Reifen 2000 exhibition in Essen, he stressed that the major brands Goodyear and Dunlop will remain independent and will almost be in competition with each other.
In a speech at the conference which ran alongside the Essen Reifen 2000 exhibition, Sir Tom Farmer, Chairman and Chief Executive of tyre retailer Kwik-Fit, announced a change to the company’s famous slogan of Our aim is 100% customer delight. This, he said, is meaningless hype – nobody is delighted when presented with a bill for tyres, or an exhaust system, however good the service and product. Today’s customer is more sophisticated than his counterpart of a decade or so ago and he (or she) expects – indeed, demands – satisfaction when purchasing goods and services. Kwik-Fit’s new attitude to the customer is to try to give him what he wants and, if anything goes wrong, to move heaven and earth to rectify it. The words delight and satisfaction will disappear from adverts, letterheadings and the like, although Sir Tom said that service and customer care will continue to be a priority for Kwik-Fit. The move comes at a time when the company is undertaking its most aggressive-ever advertising campaign, offering four 12 and 13 tyres for £65, including valve, balancing and fitting. Never before have the company’s adverts featured prices so prominently, and never before have the prices been so cheap. Sir Tom Farmer says that the move is in response to actions by competitors and it is certainly having its effect on the tyre retail market. Kwik-Fit’s own house magazine underlines the aggressive nature of the campaign, saying that, if the prices are undercut, they will be reduced even further. This is war! says the article.
Continental AG is to buy back up to 10% of its own shares, worth around 260 million Euros at the moment. This could be seen as a precautionary defensive measure in light of the rumours regarding a planned takeover attempt by a German conglomerate. Weeks ago, Klaus Friedland, Chief Financial Officer of the Group, said that it was likely that the Group would buy back shares in order to give these to interested institutional investors at a later date.
In his statement to senators in the USA, Bridgestone/Firestone chairman and chief executive Mr. Masatoshi Ono apologised to the families who have lost loved ones in these terrible rollover accidents. This was interpreted by some as an attempt to put some responsibility on to the vehicle, rather than the tyres alone. Fords chief executive, Jacques Nasser, is reported to have said later that the issue is to do with tyres and not vehicles.
US Officials To Review Tire Requirements In Wake Of Firestone Recall
Following the recall of certain Firestone tyres, federal officials in the USA are reported to be working on tougher standards for tyres for SUVs and light trucks. Stephen Kratzke, of the safety agency, is studying a requirement for off-road tyres to meet the same test criteria as car tyres, also that they should be tested to at least 100 mph. Current tests require car tyres to run at 75, 80 and 85 mph, each for half an hour. The test for off-road tyres is 5 mph slower, although the Firestone tyres were tested to the car standards.
September sales figures for the Ford Explorer – the vehicle at the centre of the Firestone tyre recall – were higher than for the same month last year at 37,510 (37,119). Ford expects sales to drop over the next few months, due in part to the company ceasing vehicle manufacture temporarily in order to make more tyres available to the aftermarket.
Bridgestone is not the only company whose share price has suffered because of the tyre recall, as Fords stock has slipped from $29 at the beginning of August to just over $25 this week. Although this is nothing like the scale of the Bridgestone fall, it comes at an embarrassing time, as Ford was widely expected to announce a plan to buy back more than $4 bn worth of its own stock. Whereas the falling share price makes such a move even more desirable, many experts believe that to do it now would be a public relations disaster.
Consolidation of Bridgestone/Firestone US Operations
John Lampe, new CEO at Bridgestone/Firestone USA, has already taken steps to change the way the business operates. Since early 1990 the firm had operated on a decentralised basis with some 21 different operations, these will now be consolidated into four divisions, each reporting directly to John Lampe: U.S. commercial tires, U.S. consumer tires, international tire operations, and manufacturing and technology. These changes are critical moves in our efforts to begin to restore consumer confidence and revitalise the Firestone brand, according to John Lampe. Lampe alluded to more changes in the coming weeks, but provided no details.
In Kenya, Goodyear has formed a partnership with leading retreader Treadsetters. The new company will be called Goodyear Kenya and will begin operations from its Nairobi HQ in January, dealing in new Goodyear tyres. According to Goodyear Logistics Director Gordon Wilmot, the partnership has been formed to exploit the large market potential.