It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of David Edwards on 15th May. David suffered a fall at home and passed away after a short spell in hospital. The Edwards family was well-known in the UK tyre business in the 1960s and the four brothers – John, Mike, Dennis and David – built up a successful group of 10 tyre depots in and around East Anglia, which they eventually sold to Dunlop in 1961.
Paisley based Caledonian Tyres has unveiled a £250,000 refurbishment, which aims to position it as one of the most advanced retread tyre centres in the country. One of the Bandag network’s largest franchise partners, Caledonian Tyres’ development of its facility features improved factory facilities, new look offices, improved equipment and an eye-catching rebrand of the entire premises. The company states that the investment underlines the strength of the commercial retread tyre market, and follows investments made at Lincolnshire-based Bulldog, another large Bandag franchise.
Bridgestone’s largest Bandag franchise, Bulldog in Bourne, Lincolnshire is a central pillar in Bridgestone’s UK Total Tyre Care truck and bus tyre strategy, and as such has been a target for ongoing investment. Most recently, Bridgestone has installed the BASys casing and production control system, digitally linking the tripartite facility and tracking the journey of retreads through the manufacturing process. This joins the latest piece of retread production equipment, the latest generation Bandag extruder builder the 9110ES, which was installed in 2016, and is now fully operational. Tyres & Accessories visited the Bulldog site to see the latest upgrades in action, and how Bulldog intends to capitalise on the current moment of what Bridgestone retread development manager for the North region (UK, Ireland, and the Nordic region) Terry Salter terms a “golden period” for retreading.
Bridgestone says its Lincolnshire retreading facility played “a huge role” in its latest fleet contract win. Leading haulage company Maxi Haulage agreed the fleet deal with the tyre manufacturer, coinciding with the 10 year anniversary of Bridgestone’s acquisition of Bulldog in Bourne, which boasts an output of roughly 50:50 mould cure to pre-cure. As a result of this ratio, the company says the operation stands out in the historically mould cure dominated UK retreading market.
10 years after Bridgestone bought Bulldog, the retreading market is a different place. A decade ago passenger car retreading was still going on (albeit some way from its peak). At the same Chinese tyres were present, but in nowhere near the current quantities – and in some cases they were being sold at the same or higher prices they are now. On top of this many more retreading operations were running than there are today.
Bridgestone has been looking to increase its truck and bus tyre market position via strategic retreading acquisitions in this part of the European market for around a decade now. One such acquisition was the targeted purchase of Lincolnshire-based Bulldog remoulds back in 2005. A little more than a year later this key part of the UK market which specialised in mould-cure retreads was joined by the entire global Bandag operation, which of course specialises in pre-cure franchising around the world. The two operations couldn’t be more different aspects of retreading, however while the acquisitions came in quick succession and the benefits of both are obvious, Bridgestone has now spent years working through the integration of both into its wider business model.
In contrast with some other premium manufacturers Bridgestone’s 2006 and first half 2007 sales both grew 1 – 2 per cent. According to Bridgestone UK’s commercial sales director, Greg Ward, the key to the company’s continued growth in the mature market is consistency and continuity. From his perspective, the recent news that the company has retained the Ryder contract for another three years is case in point. (In this instance Bridgestone beat off early competition from another competitor to retain the 10-year long working relationship it has with the Ryder fleet). “If the second half is as good as the first half, I will be delighted,” added Ward.
Most sources agree that the influence and volume of Chinese products grew during 2006, but at the same time premium manufacturers like Bridgestone appear unfazed by their rapid growth. In response to the question of increased competition from the Far East Greg Ward commented: “Chinese & Budget brands may be trialling their products on fleets, but the biggest, most professional fleets need professional service providers in addition to tyres. The Truck Point Network is a real winner in this respect.” In addition, the recent US recall situation should be take as a warning, Ward added.
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.