Fleet use of e-commerce products will be boosted by higher broadband speeds across the UK over the next few years. New services announced recently by Internet service providers (ISPs) mean that parts of the country have access to broadband speeds of up to 24 megabits per second (many connection currently run at 1 or 2 mbps or less). These faster connections will allow fleet e-commerce services to be developed including high resolution, full screen video links and ever more detailed transaction information.
Whichever way you look at it 2005 was a significant year for Sapphire Energy Recovery. Not only the did the company successfully dispose of more than 100,000 tonnes of tyres, but it markedly increased industry awareness thanks to a high-profile (putting it mildly) advertising campaign. But neither achievement has gone unnoticed as the 2006 TAFF award nominations (see page 38) recognise the company on both counts. Furthermore Sapphire expects to process its 50 millionth tyre in the coming months, something that is particularly impressive when you consider that the company was only founded in 2000.
It’s time once again to vote for the winners of the NTDA Tyre and Fast Fit (TAFF) Awards. These were introduced last year and immediately became the awards that everyone wanted to win, as it is the customers who decided the outcome.
Micheldever Tyre Services Sold in Management Buyout
Tony Todd, the architect of 34 years of growth at Micheldever Tyre Services’, has sold the company to its management team. On 6 February Alan Baldwin, Phil Brookes, Ashley Croft, Mike Flood, Brian Kerswell, and Eric Noble became the new owners. A number of other companies, including Kwik-Fit, are said to have unsuccessfully approached the company.
The deal was backed by private equity company Graphite Capital and the Royal Bank of Scotland. Financial sources report that Graphite is taking a 72 per cent stake while the management will own the remaining shares. While details of the price-tag have not been released, estimates would have to be based on the £150 – £160 million of sales the company achieved in 2005.
The 2006 Autosport/Aftermarket Show confirmed its position as the largest dedicated motorsport exhibition in Europe with 94,000 visitors in total. According to the organisers, 27,000 of these were trade visitors, an 8 per cent increase on 2004.
Blackcircles.com is aiming to turn 700 independent garages across the UK into franchisees. And what’s more, managing director, Mike Welch, has a five-year plan to capture 10 per cent of the market and plans to enter Europe in 2006.
Blackcircles.com is something of dotcom success story. Founded in 2001 when Mr Welch was 23, the company currently operates a network of 987 independent garages serving consumers from “Thurso to Truro.” Next the 27-year-old managing director is aiming to capitalise on this position by turning 700 of the garages into branded franchisees, making local independent garages into outlets linked to Blackcircles’ ordering and stock checking systems.
Whether you like it or not, the world is turning more and more into a technological marketplace. And all aspects of business are being affected, including the tyre trade. Here Tyres & Accessories looks at two of the Internet’s best-known names, and asks how their businesses might affect yours.
According to the Office of National Statistics, by the end of 2004, 52 per cent of households in the UK had access to the Internet at home. And by the end of 2005, 99.6 per cent of the UK will have access to broadband if they want it. Furthermore, the Internet was the fastest growing retail sector last year, attracting one in four shoppers.
Auto Express’ decision to make its recent tyre tests their “biggest ever” goes some way towards demonstrating the increasing interest surrounding these reports. And with so many brands on the market all claiming to be the best at something, who can blame consumers for wanting a second opinion?
However, Auto Express is not alone when it comes to testing. Other well-known magazines including Which? Autocar and Evo also publish tyre test results. But in terms of coverage and frequency Auto Express’ tyre tests currently lead the way in the UK. And when you consider that that this particular publication is Britain’s biggest selling motoring weekly, it is clear that winning or being recommended by such a report can have very positive repercussions on the tyre business.
Relatively unknown brands particularly have a lot to gain. By winning or being recommended in tests, these companies stand to gain a leg up in the estimation the country’s motoring millions, without investing in publicity or marketing campaigns. The theory is that product quality will speak for itself.
Since John McNaught took over at Bridgestone UK there have been a number of changes including some high profile acquisitions in the commercial vehicle sector. But in general the developments of the last few years can be summed up in one word, growth.
It has been a “phenomenally busy period,” John McNaught told Tyres & Accessories at the company’s Warwick, headquarters. “Bridgestone is in a very high period of growth and for all our staff it is a tremendously busy and rewarding time,” said Mr McNaught explaining that this is part of a long-term plan developed in conjunction with the company’s European management based in Brussels. John McNaught praised the efforts of all his team and highlighted the fact that the company has been awarded the prestigious Investors in People award.
CVC Capital Partners has sold Kwik-Fit to French private equity firm PAI for £800 million. The news follows months of speculation including suggestions that a Bridgestone/Mitsubishi joint venture was pulling out in front when it came to bidding for the UK’s largest fast-fit chain. Bloomberg reports that PAI plans to open more fast fit retail outlets as a result of the acquisition.
Bridgestone UK Ltd has acquired Bulldog Remoulds (Holdings) Ltd, the companies have announced in a joint statement. The deal is said to have been the subject of discussion for “some time.” Both parties agreed that the pricetag attached to the purchase would remain “commercially confidential.”
The purchase took effect on 29 April and will not affect existing trading arrangements with Bulldog customers and suppliers, the companies have confirmed. Bridgestone says the acquisition will strengthen its long-term capability to look after and expand its Truck Fleet customers within the UK.
It would be something of an understatement to say that high raw material costs, the weak dollar and unprecedented competition from the Far East is affecting UK alloy wheel manufacturing. But, in the cases of the selection of companies that Tyres & Accessories spoke to, it is more a question of ingenuity triumphing over adversity. So, in the face of such pressing circumstances, how are UK manufacturers holding firm? Work smarter, not necessarily harder, they say.
The AA has announced that it intends to close AA Tyre Fit, which currently provides a national mobile tyre fitting through a fleet of 130 vehicles, and its Vehicle Inspections business, currently offering inspections on used cars for consumers. According to the company, both businesses have been operating at a loss.
Vredestein: Two years with Bert Stellinga at the helm in the UK
Bert Stellinga has now been installed at Vredesteins Wellingborough UK headquarters for two years. In that time Vredestein have launched new high performance tyres and taken steps to develop the brand awareness in the enthusiasts market in the UK, whilst at the same time developing their share of the agricultural tyre market. It has very much been steady as she goes for the Dutch tyre manufacturer.
Bert Stellinga told T&A that the UK is a major market for Vredestein and that progress was being made in both the UK and the Irish markets. However, to get a better picture of the company it was important to understand the wider position of Vredestein as an organisation.
2003 saw Vredesteins year on year sales on the increase and the company managed to record a profit, very close to that earned in 2002. During the year there was also a stock reduction exercise which released funds and made the whole business more profitable. The fact that Vredestein is making a profit, says Stellinga, enables the company to invest in people and product, to develop new services. For instance, in some markets in the European Union we have our new Internet Ordering facility in place. This allows customers to access stock records, place orders and arrange delivery on line, at their convenience. The strength of being in profit also allows us to develop our marketing with advertising and of course attendance at events such as the Autosport International Exhibition.
One of the biggest developments for the company last year was the return to private ownership. Having removed the obligation to the shareholders that put the company in a position where it could increase its flexibility and invest in research and development. At present we are in a transitional period but the move will have positive consequences in the future. This will be seen in the investment in new lines this year with a new winter tyre arriving later in 2004.
One question that arises about Vredestein is its ability to stand alone. Other smaller manufacturers are working together with off-take agreements to fill capacity, or enable ranges to be extended. There is a deal of technology exchange and shared product development. As an independent, manufacturer can Vredestein continue to develop its own products as a stand alone business?
Vredestein is very much a self contained operation and I dont think that we would envisage such close co-operation with competitors. Our own R&D facility swallows a considerable element of the finance budget but we need to develop products that the market appreciates and wants. We produce niche products that appeal to specialised markets – Sportrac and Ultrac are the only designer tyres in the world and our cooperation with Giugiaro Design is proving to be very successful, for instance. We do not need vast volumes because we are selling premium quality products where we can maintain good prices for everyone in the chain. We do not deal with OE in passenger car tyres, so we can survive on our limited capacity. Our OE market is strictly agricultural and again, we offer a premium brand tyre to a specialised market, says Bert Stellinga. We are determined to go it alone and I cant see any reason why we shouldnt.
Goodyear Dunlop has been chosen as tyre supplier to UK police forces for the next three years. Goodyear first secured the contract in 1994 and the new deal means that around 100,000 Goodyear and Dunlop tyres will be fitted to police cars, vans and motorbikes for each of the next three years.