Things are looking up for the tire industry. According to Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. CEO Rich Kramer in his closing remarks at the 2018 Goodyear Customer Conference in Nashville, the trends are pointing toward a bright future for both tire dealers and tiremakers. Kramer sees “a new wave of growth” in the tire industry, fueled by the anticipated upward trends in vehicle miles driven, the increased adoption of connected and autonomous vehicles, and changes in mobility, including shifts in vehicle ownership.
These trends and others were presented to more than 1,550 tire dealers representing 450 independent tire businesses from across North America attending this year’s Goodyear Customer Conference. The event set records, boasting the highest attendance in 10 years compared to the tiremaker’s past dealer conferences. Attendees enjoyed three days of educational sessions, brand updates and entertainment within the sprawling Gaylord Opryland.
“Winning Together” was the theme for the event, reinforcing the gratitude toward those who represent the Goodyear brand within their communities as well as the call for closer dealer partnerships moving forward as the mobility landscape changes with the anticipated adoption of four key trends that Kramer refers to as FACE: fleets, autonomous vehicles, connectivity of vehicle technologies and electric vehicles.
The “Winning Together” theme was woven through the many brand updates and presentations as leaders of Goodyear’s North American team took the stage. Standing before a massive stage flanked by walls of HD screens that added a bit of “Hollywood,” as one dealer described it, presenters’ words were reinforced by a variety of dynamic high-quality videos crafted for the event. Videos of Goodyear customers providing testimonials of benefits alternated between points and features in the eye-popping multi-media format.
Opening the event was Steve McClellan, president of Goodyear Americas.
“Together, Goodyear and our aligned dealers are poised for growth and success like never before,” McClellan said. “That, in a nutshell, is how this year’s theme, Winning Together, came to be. To me, the theme was perfect for the opportunities in front of us, both this year and into the future. It underscores how closer relationships with [the independent Goodyear dealers and distributors] means bigger wins for all of us.”
Commercial Truck Team Update
In the presentation on the commercial tire business, Dave Beasley, who heads up Goodyear’s commercial truck team, and Doug Whittington, director of commercial tire sales, emphasized the value of the Goodyear Total Solution offerings for fleet accounts. Total Solution refers to the tiremaker’s product, service, fleet management tools and a nationwide network of dealers. To keep up with the changing needs of fleet customers, Beasley said the program will continue to evolve.
“There has never been a better time to be in the commercial tire business,” Beasley said. “Market forces are strong, and favorable trends will continue. There will be more opportunities than ever, and we’re going to capitalize on them together.”
After a successful 2017 that included the completion of their mid-tier offering, adding Goodyear Marathon and Workhorse tires and a more complete line of Kelly tires, Beasley and Whittington detailed several new innovations that were launched at the event. Those include a new long-haul steer tire, two new wide-base tires, new retread products and innovative digital fleet management tools.
The all-new Goodyear Endurance LHS long-haul steer tire is designed for customers that require long mileage, even wear and retreadability. Features include a new casing design to deliver improved rolling resistance for SmartWay-verified fuel efficiency, and a dual-layer tread compound and design that promotes long miles and even wear. The Endurance LHS is designed to be matched with the Endurance LHD.
Goodyear also launched two new wide-base tires, the Fuel Max SSD and Fuel Max SST. The new tires feature improved traction, protection from stone drilling along with DuraSeal Technology puncture correction, and are SmartWay complaint.
Additions to their retread product offering include the new Endurance WHD for the waste-haul segment, a complement to the Endurance WHA, which offers industry-leading strong miles to removal, according to Whittington.
Tire Optix is a digital tire measurement system that is integrated into cloud-based software platform designed for desktop computer, phone and tablet. It allows the user to digitally measure tread depth and air pressure with a single tool. The readings are then automatically updated into a cloud-based software platform with the ability to be shared instantly with customers, allowing for faster, more accurate reporting and recommendations. It also provides the ability to take photos to back up recommendations such as uneven wear or other concerns.
“The dealer who uses data to help fleets drive their costs down is the dealer who will win time and time again,” says Whittington. “It’s time to put that old tire gauge, pen and keyboard away.”
Fleet accounts also saw growth in 2017, thanks in part to the use of the tiremaker’s SmartTech app.
“In 2017 alone, we had a 15% increase in call volume, with over 270,000 completed events. Together, we drove more than $100 million in revenue for our network [of dealers]. And in this, our 10th year of Goodyear fleet HQ, we expect even more growth,” Whittington said.
He went on to explain how it works. Once a work order has been made, it sends the information to the SmartTech app. Once you approve the work, the app then digitally connects with the fleet to provide all the appropriate information to create the PO electronically, cutting days from the process. The billing solution will be rolled out in the next month, beginning with the largest users of Goodyear’s Fleet HQ.
Consumer Tire Update
Formerly the chief marketing officer of Goodyear, Scott Rogers in September 2017 was named the president of the tiremaker’s consumer tire division for North America. In his presentation and new role, Rogers provided detail about some of the recent challenges the company has faced in that category and how his team has been working to address them. Feedback from many dealers was around the company needing to “be more in the present” and in touch with what’s going on in today’s passenger-tire marketplace.
“I won’t rehash what happened in 2017. That’s the past. What matters is we weren’t growing,” Rogers shared with the audience. “My team worked hard to identify the root causes and assess if our connected business model was still right. What we found is the strategy is still sound.”
Using their connected business model as a foundation, Rogers said they worth in the fourth quarter of 2017 to get their strategy back on track to better support their dealers and build momentum.
“It’s clear we have aligned dealers who want to win together… But we still weren’t growing. Why not? Simply, we had gotten a little out of sync with the industry….,” he said. “We got away from some of the fundamentals that are the key foundation to the strategy, so we took action in the fourth quarter.”
That action included enhanced consumer promotions, better pricing on key product lines, stronger demand generation activities and new products launched, like the Assurance WeatherReady all-season radial. Rogers said that getting their fundamentals back in line helped to grow share “significantly” in the fourth quarter. He said that simplifying the programs and designing them around the needs of dealers based on feedback will help maintain that momentum.
This builds on what others might consider a great year. Goodyear is No. 1 with OE fitments, enjoys strong marketshare among millennials, is expanding their 17-in. and above diameter products and has engaged with more than 20 million consumers researching tires online, driving consumers to locations within their network of authorized dealers.
For 120 years, Goodyear has been an iconic brand in the tire industry. In his marketing update for the conference crowds, Mike Dwyer, chief marketing officer for the consumer tire business at Goodyear, explained the 2018 marketing strategy will continue its emphasis on sports marketing sponsorship, detailing how they work to keep Goodyear top of mind for consumers by tapping into what they are most passionate about.
“Sports lives at the intersection where consumers are, when they are most receptive to our message,” said Dwyer. “People feel connected to their favorite sport and the brands that support them. In the age of Netflix, DVRs, on-demand, multi-channel viewing, live sports are the one place consumers can’t turn away from when the outcome is on the line.”
He went on to say that “anyone can write a check” for naming rights to an arena or stadium, or put their logo on a sign at a track, but Goodyear’s connection with sports is “earned” as part of its heritage – from the tires on NASCAR racecars to the blimp over college football stadiums. The tiremaker’s three major partnerships – NASCAR, college football and the NBA (with their wingfoot logo on Cleveland Cavaliers jerseys) – are timed to ensure consumers get consistent exposure to the brand.
For NASCAR fans, the event shared a preview of a touching commercial with the popular Dale Earnhardt Jr., set to preview as part of the 2018 Daytona 500 coverage in February.
“Consumers love Dale,” Dwyer shared. “Not only was he NASCAR’s most popular driver for 15 years running, but our recent advertising with Dale is one of the strongest we’ve tested with consumers. In 2018 we will continue evolving our partnership with one of the sport’s great icons as we help celebrate his next chapter, as only Goodyear can, with a new TV ad.”
Goodyear will also continue its association with college football with sponsorship of the College football playoffs and title sponsorship of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, which in 2018 will be one of the two semi-final playoff games.
He went on share that Goodyear is the OE fitment on four of the five best-selling vehicles, has 100% marketshare as OE on police vehicles, plus 150 OE fitments for 2018 – all to help drive customers into retail tire dealerships.
Because 80% of consumers go online before entering a tire dealership and 50% are on a mobile device, as part of its digital strategy the company is working to optimize its “near me” searches, intended to help redirect consumers back to Goodyear retailers within the dealer network.
After digging into customer feedback to make improvements to the Goodyear offering, Andy Traicoff, Goodyear’s vice president of sales for North America, took what dealers had to say seriously. Enhancements include: a new tiered incentive program that rewards growth and brand loyalty; a delivery commission structure based on a percentage of sales; reimbursement for deliveries based on current pricing, plus a national promotions program.
Traicoff also explained a new tool they call the “Product Screen Optimizer” or PSO. Using data from a number of sources, the digital tool gives deeper understanding of local marketplaces to help dealers improve performance.
“Last year, the top 30 PSO users increased their businesses seven points – more than everyone else in a flat market,” Traicoff said. “If you haven’t taken advantage of PSO, quite frankly, you’re getting left behind. It’s all about having the right products, in the right place, at the right time.”
And speaking of products, Traicoff said they are making a strong effort to simplify the Goodyear offering, to make it simple for dealers to sell Goodyear tires in an increasingly complex marketplace.
In the all-terrain category, Traicoff said they’ve revamped the Kelly Edge offering to cover 85% of the target marketplace. They also introduced the Kelly Edge HT for all-season traction in an on-highway tire for light trucks and SUVs, available in 22 sizes at an affordable price. They’re also adding 15 new sizes to keep up with growth within the expanding truck-enthusiast segment.
In performance products, the Customer Conference event introduced the new Eagle Enforcer All-Weather for law enforcement vehicles – the first pursuit tire certified as all-weather, with a three-peak snowflake rating. And on the other side of the law is the Eagle F1 Supercar 3R – a street-legal track tire designed with GM for the new Camaro ZL1-1LE.
Traicoff also detailed the introduction of the new Assurance MaxLife, an all-season Goodyear product designed to deliver 30% more miles, plus better wet and dry performance, an 85,000 mile limited warranty on every tire in every speed rating, available in 45 sizes that span 15- to 20-in. rim diameters and H and V speed ratings. It also features a tread-life measure built into the tire’s tread to show how much tread life remains as the tire wears.
Trends to Watch
The “Winning Together” theme of the Goodyear Customer Conference that wove through the presentations was reinforced by the optimistic trends and opportunities presented during the conference.
McClellan, president of Goodyear Americas, shared that demand within the replacement tire marketplace is increasing and accelerating through 2020 and the commercial tire market will remain strong. Consumer confidence is high; vehicle miles traveled are on the rise; employment is high which means people can better afford tires; new vehicle sales have been strong with many of those vehicles coming off lease; gas prices favor driving, and more. All of this creates a positive environment for dealers.
“We are positioned for success because at Goodyear, like you, we’ve worked hard to make it happen,” McClellan said.