Eight Goodyear factories have earned the DaimlerChrysler Gold Award, given in recognition of outstanding service. Seven of the plants are in North America and one is in Europe, at Philippsburg, in Germany. Goodyear was rated as “excellent” in the areas of quality, delivery, competitive pricing and technology and “acceptable” in customer support.
Press reports say that financial investors in Stomil Olsztyn, the Polish tyre maker, are threatening to take Michelin to court over alleged abuse of the rights of minority shareholders. There is a shareholders meeting, at which the disaffected investors are set to demand the appointment of an independent auditor to look into the financial links between Stomil and Michelin. Failing this, legal action will be taken, says the investors group.
Avon Rubber, British supplier of components for the automotive industry and not to be mixed up with the tyre manufacturer Avon, has released a profit warning. Due to pricing pressure and the strong British Pound the company will probably not achieve the profits expected. Experts think that Avon Rubber is too small for a global market, while the company itself recently blamed falling car production in the UK for the drop in annual profits.
The large manufacturers of car wheels, especially those cast of aluminium, are growing ever larger. Business is booming worldwide, but the financial results of most manufacturers in this field of activity are well below those achieved in other industries. Wheel manufacturers, on the one hand, suffer from the low ratings stock exchanges accord to car manufacturers and their suppliers, and on the other, because their products are regarded as “low tech”. But all the time big changes are taking place in the world of wheels – in the form of new technologies and an optimisation of existing products. New wheel technologies, however, are not the only decisive factor, another considerable influence is the car manufacturers’ aggressive pricing, well beyond what many a supplier can bear. Some wheel manufacturers focus their activities on the original equipment market in the belief that it will allow them to operate more cost-effectively. Others like to commit themselves to the refit markets because they think they can thus keep their ears closer to the market and be well-placed to offer car manufacturers superior development capability. Which way is the right one, or whether both can succeed – that is something we shall only know in a few years’ time. Of course the starting position is different from wheel manufacturer to wheel manufacturer and from car producer to car producer. In the comprehensive report in this and the following (April) issues we shall outline the trends in detail.
NEUE REIFENZEITUNG, having focused in its wheel industry report on original equipment and vehicle manufacturers in its March issue, will in April concentrate on the pricing of wheels (manufacturer to customer), on technical features, the takeover merry-go-round and on the replacement market. It came as no surprise that motor manufacturers were not too keen on our trade magazine investigating the pricing procedure – which only serves to make this exercise that much more interesting. We are still a very long way away from completing the consolidation of the industry, as can be gathered from the takeover rumours that spring up afresh every week and from the commitment of large market players to use their strong growth potential. As our last issue went to press, we reported the sale of the Norwegian manufacturer Fundo, for instance. Who will be next? In the April issue we also take a closer look at some companies operating in the replacement market, which have influenced the most important European market, i.e. Germany, in 1999, e.g. Alcar, Artec/RH Alurad, Brock/Rad Center Derkum and many others.
A Deutsche Bank analyst raised the Goodyear rating to “buy” because he believed in a turnaround story. Some analysts agreed, others saw Goodyear shares still only as “neutral”. But now it is different. Based on the latest statements from Goodyear, there are massive doubts regarding volumes and whether the pricing trend will be favourable. Analysts now believe that the situation will not improve before next year and that Goodyear shares will remain low.