Michelin has published its financial results for the first six months of 1999. Turnover is up 3.8% on the same period last year to 6,488 million Euros. Operating profit has improved too, from 511 million Euros to 611 million Euros, or 9.4% of net sales. These results are better than those of major competitors Bridgestone and Goodyear, with Michelin benefiting from falling raw material prices and an increase in inventory, allowing the group to absorb fixed costs more easily. Despite a favourable economic environment, Michelin has been unable to reduce net debt, which rose by 1,000 million Euros to 3,800 million Euros. It is assumed that the group requires significant financial investment to further develop the Pax system and to build new C3M factories. Michelin is expecting consumer prices to continue to fall in Europe over the next few years and it is vital for the company to reduce costs significantly in order to be competitive. As part of this process, Michelin has announced that it will reduce its European workforce by 10% over the next three years.
On 11th November, The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) announced a new tyre exhibition for the UK. The show (as yet unnamed) will run alongside the Automotive Trade Show at Birminghams NEC between 29th April and 2nd May, 2001. The SMMT says that it makes good business sense for tyres to be a part of an aftermarket exhibition.
From December to March, cars, light trucks, trailers and buses (up to 30 t) in Sweden must be fitted with M+S tyres. In the past, many motorists - particularly in the south of the country - drove on summer tyres all year round, especially on used cars or second family cars.
Goodyear has told bank analysts that it will close a large factory in Italy that produces six million tyres a year. Goodyear produced about 55 million tyres in Europe this year and intends to reduce the production capacity from 72 million tyres (after the Dunlop take-over) to about 62 million by 2002. After Goodyears shares lost more than 40 per cent of their value, they announced plans to close more than one factory and increase production in the remaining European plants by introducing a seven day operation.
Michelin wants to speed up the globalisation process and has its back to the wall. Once again cost reduction programmes and job cuts are necessary. In the struggle between the Big Three Michelin may have been dealt the worst hand. Bridgestone’s and Goodyear/Dunlop’s pressure on the home market of the French is growing. Bridgestone with its immensely strong financial power is considered capable of becoming the clear number one in the global tyre market.
Pirelli has released first details of a new manufacturing system, called MIRS (Modular Integrated Robotised System). The company is investing 250 million Euros over the next five years. A MIRS plant that can produce one million tyres a year would employ 104 people in five shifts, would occupy 3,500 sq. m. and the investment cost (excluding the building itself) would be around 45 million Euros. According to Pirelli, MIRS reduces the steps of the tyre building process from the previous 14 to only three. Instead of passing the tyres from hand to hand in the production process, the MIRS work is done by robots. Tyre type and size are fed into the computer at the beginning of production, the rest is done by the computer alone, without human interference. MIRS is therefore a kind of mini-factory with an extremely high degree of flexibility. The factory can be built anywhere where there is a market. The technology, which Pirelli does not disclose and is not prepared to share with a competitor, not even under licence, was developed by Pirelli’s research and development department in co-operation with Italian universities and the Ministry of Research and Science. A pilot plant will start work in the Bicocca factory near Milan at the end of June 2000. The Italiens claim a manufacturing cost reduction of 25 p.c. for the MIRS method compared with the traditional way, and Pirelli boss Tronchetti Provera plans to manufacture three million tyres by the new method by the year 2003, or 15 p.c. of its high and ultra-high performance tyres. If all goes to plan, it will be possible to produce five million MIRS tyres within five years.
The Kwik-Fit group plans to grow from its present 2,000 centres to a total of 5,000 centres by the year 2010. This is made possible due to the financial backing of car giant Ford, said Sir Tom Farmer recently in a key-note speech in England.
Bridgestone is optimistic that it will achieve its stated target of a 20% market share worldwide during next year. The group aims to be number one, or at least number two, in each market. As far as distribution is concerned, the focus is very much on the First Stop franchise system. In a background briefing, high-ranking Bridgestone managers revealed that the companys main goal is to become the dominant player in the world tyre market, regardless of the actions of main competitors Goodyear and Michelin. At present, Bridgestone operates 44 tyre factories in 22 countries around the world.
In the first nine months of this year, Continentals sales rose to 6.8 billion Euros, with an EBIT of 385 million Euros. The largest contribution still comes from passenger car tyres, although Continental emphasises the growing importance of its role as a systems supplier. However, it seems that there will not be any striking developments in this segment that will affect the market in the immediate future. But Dr. Kessel is sure, saying: Continental is on the way to Total Chassis Management. Obviously, the company wants to enhance its profile at the expense of its tyre competitors, many of whose shares are performing badly on the worlds stock markets. However, Continentals share price at the moment is also disappointing.
Nokian Tyres has agreed to purchase up to 94 % of the ISKO-shares. ISKO is the largest Finnish Tyre wholesaler and retailer. As soon as the transaction has been completed Nokian Tyres will have the largest equity in Nordic Europe consisting of 117 depots with 750 employees in Scandinavia together with Estonia and Latvia.