In its August issue NEUE REIFENZEITUNG reported that Pirelli had fallen behind with its plans for Germany, in parts by 20 p.c., and that the attraction of the Pirelli brand was on the wane, with price erosion as the consequence. Dr. Wentz, the Pirelli Reifenwerke boss, it was said, had to postpone his intended retirement, because G. Sala, his successor-designate, was unable to take up his post for health reasons. We also mentioned the possible return to Höchst of Dr. P. Masera as Pirelli Reifenwerke boss. Pirelli declared that Dr. Wentz would stay in office for several more years, and that there was no question of the Pirelli brand becoming less popular, rather the contrary. Results were good, we were told, Pirelli was doing very well in Germany and no redundancies were planned. One month later the head of the group, Tronchetti Provera, announced 2,800 job cuts for this year, 800 of them on the tyre side. In this context Milan made special mention of the significant price reduction in the winter tyre segment and in super-high-performance tyres, especially in the German market. In the meantime Dr. Masera has taken over as Chairman of the management. Dr. Wentz will leave Pirelli Reifenwerke by the end of the year but retain his seat on the board of Pirelli Deutschland AG and is also in line for a seat on the supervisory board.
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.
There are persistent rumours that Michelin will be entering Formula 1 from the year 2001. BMW/Williams is the most likely partner. It is expected that Michelin will make an announcement in December this year. Other rumours say that Goodyear intends to return to Formula 1 Racing as well, but research carried out by NEUE REIFENZEITUNG confirmed them to be unfounded. Very recently the Americans even anounced to pull out of the IRL and CART Series in the USA.
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.
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.
In its last issue NEUE REIFENZEITUNG speculated about an agreement between Montupet and Michelin in the area of aluminium cast wheels. The talks seem to be on hold for the time being, because at the moment both partners have their hands full with orders. Montupet is currently doubling its capacity to 2.5 million cast wheels. Kronprinz, the Michelin subsidiary in Solingen, is able to cast 1.4 million wheels with the equipment already in place. In its search for a strategic alliance partner (without seeking a direct participation) Michelin has now found steel wheel manufacturer Meritor, which has factories in Mexico and Brazil. Meritor is a business division of Rockwell, the large supplier to the automotive industry, and is also known by the trade name Fumagalli. With an annual capacity of about 25 million steel and aluminium wheels Michelin is roughly double the size of Meritor. The strategic benefit for Michelin is not only the geographical location of the two Meritor factories, but above all the close relationship between the supplier Rockwell and Chrysler. The principal reason for the cooperation between M+M, however, was Renault’s decision to produce the Mégane also in South America with the same steel wheels as in Europe, where they are made by Michelin. To comply with local content requirements, the South American Mégane will have Meritor wheels.
Goodyear: Berckholtz Takes Over Original Equipment Germany
Günter Sommer (63), Manager Original Equipment Germany, will retire at the end of the year. Jan Berckholtz (55), Director in the European management for Sales and Marketing Original Equipment Consumer Tires Europe since 1992, will take over his responsibilities and move to Cologne.
Avon Rubber has blamed falling car production in the UK for a 40% drop in annual profits to £3.3 million. Direct sales of automotive and technical products to Ford and Rover fell £7.6 million to £27.1 million. Shares fell 12.5p to 455p.
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.
Karl-Friedrich Schmidt Moves to Goodyear Group Headquarters
Karl-Friedrich Schmidt (59), previously Fulda manager with Europe-wide responsibility for Manufacturing Efficiency and Information Systems, took over as Director Global Manufacturing Efficiency of the Goodyear parent company with effect from 1st October. In this new function he reports directly to Goodyear’s world headquarters in Akron/Ohio, where he will also be based. My principal aim is to raise the efficiency and profitability of all Goodyear production facilities worldwide, said Schmidt. K.-F. Schmidt began his career with the group in 1983 when he joined Gummiwerke Fulda as Manager Industrial Engineering. In 1986 he moved to the personnel and welfare department with the rank of Deputy Managing Director. Four years later he became Manager Organization Effectiveness Europe for group divisions not directly product-related. He held his most recent position since 1993, during which time he was responsible for the integration of company acquisitions, among others Debica (Poland), Sava (Slovenia) and the repurchase of Goodyear South Africa.
Scrap Tyre Recyclers Meet in Schwerin to Find Feasible Solutions
Under the headline Recycling von Altreifen in Deutschland – Aktuelle Lage und Möglichkeiten für die Zukunft (Scrap Tyre Recycling in Germany – The Current Situation and Future Possibilities) a two-day conference was held in the banqueting hall of Schwerin Castle in mid-October. Joint hosts of the first meeting of this kind on German soil were the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Ministry of the Environment and the European Tyre Recycling Association ETRA. The conference in Schwerin is part of a series of European meetings organised as Regional Information Briefings by ETRA for the airing and discussion of current questions and problems in the tyre recycling industry with the object of eventually finding common solutions. The programme was opened with a presentation covering the current situation of the scrap tyre recycling industry in Germany. This was followed by reports/discussions on the current state of the recycling technology as well as the opportunities for opening new markets for recycled scrap tyre products, in which almost 100 experts from the areas of tyre trade and disposal, retreading, material extraction, construction industry/road building, technology, equipment industry, waste disposal took part together with representatives of the civil authorities. In the course of the conference it became clear, however, that there was still a widespread lack of technological know-how and a considerable ignorance about how to market the recycled products. One reason is a limited demand for such products, another a lack of innovative and worthwhile product ideas and of adequate marketing concepts.
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.
At a press conference in Milan, Mr. Marco Tronchetti Provera and Mr. Giovanni Ferrario reacted to speculation that Pirelli might diversify into other automotive components, as has Continental. Tyres will continue to be an absolute core global business for Pirelli they said, and emphasised that Pirelli would maintain its independence, while seeking alliances wherever appropriate.