The 2012 Goodyear Dealer Conference was just more of the same: straightforward, devoid of major direction shifts, lacking in drama, and short on heavyweight substance. It even had shorter, snappier presentations.
And the dealers in attendance couldn’t be happier.
Sure, a fistful of new products took their bows and recently installed North American Tire unit president Steve McClellan gave his first dealer meeting address in that post, but other than that it was a pleasant, peaceful few days of “getting connected” in Orlando.
The meeting was kicked off by five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, who personally greeted the nearly 2,700 dealers and Goodyear staff in attendance, perhaps the largest number to date.
McClellan, the third president of Goodyear’s NAT unit in the last three years, briefly talked about the late 2011 management changes, but quickly put the focus on the meeting’s “Get Connected” theme.
McClellan said Goodyear has a consistent “market-back strategy” and is working to improve the “transparency” it stressed during the 2011 dealer meeting. The NAT unit, he said, is focused on delivering “sustainable economic value” to dealers by:
• Creating a “winning” team with common goals between Goodyear and its dealers with a focus on continuously learning from each other
• Driving innovation with products and solutions that exemplify the strength of the Goodyear brand
• Developing, producing and offering “high value products,” while at the same time not trying to cover all parts of the market
• Building capability through operational excellence that brings efficiency and cost-control and improved fill rates.
McClellan then turned things over to Jack Winterton, who recently was elevated to president of NAT’s consumer tire group.
“I can’t help but be proud how dedicated and loyal you – our customers – have been, and of how far we have come together,” Winterton noted while recounting marketshare gains by the Goodyear brand, and the rapid growth of Goodyear’s Tire & Service Network, which was formally unveiled at last year’s meeting and now counts more than 2,500 dealer- and company-owned locations.
“We aggressively pursue targeted market segments and we do it by connecting and aligning our business models with you…We are a branded company now, focused on the Goodyear brand with Dunlop and Kelly as support brands to help sell more Goodyear,” he said.
Winterton said he has “always been grounded in the belief that the way to create long-term, sustainable value in the tire business is to create value for the consumer, our dealer customers and Goodyear.”
Ryan Patterson, newly minted vice president of consumer operations and customer development, talked about the importance of “connecting on the critical industry trends and our understanding of consumer behavior.”
More than ever before, consumers want “high-value tires,” he said. “By 2016, virtually 100% of OE tire fitments will be ‘high-value tires,’ and we see that trend clearly today with every OE request that we receive. Ultimately, if every OE tire fitment is a ‘high value’ tire, the replacement market will naturally become ‘high value,’ as well.”
Even with “attractive growth rates in the premium tier and performance segment,” Patterson said, the mid-tier will remain the largest segment – more than 50% of the industry, by Goodyear’s count. To win there, Goodyear and dealers must win over “shoppers that are smarter and more informed than ever, and they come to your stores with more knowledge.”
Scott Rogers, the chief marketing officer, talked about the success Goodyear experienced with its multi-media thrust that began with last year’s dealer meeting, and how that has helped build a connection between dealers and consumers.
Rogers said a combination of active efforts (like advertising) and passive activities (PR efforts like the “Blimpworthy” campaign) helped boost Goodyear website visitors by “almost 50%,” reaching “10 million total annual visitors.”
“Looking forward into 2012, our ‘generate demand strategy’ remains the same,” said Rogers. “We’ll continue our successful and targeted ‘More Driven’ campaign across all advertising mediums; we’ll continue utilizing our fleet of airships and activating our racing sponsorships to meaningfully connect with consumers; and we will launch an all new Tire & Service Network advertising program supported by new content and a new dedicated section on goodyear.com.”
In addition, Rogers said, Goodyear will launch five new websites, including goodyear.ca in French and English for Canadian dealers and consumers, a new U.S. site to address Hispanic consumers, new sites to support the Dunlop and Kelly brands, and a new mobile device-oriented website.
Todd Pickens, senior director of sales, returned to Winterton’s comment regarding the growth of the performance segment and Goodyear’s desire to capture greater share there.
Besides adding new products to support that segment, Pickens announced the tiremaker’s Performance Specialist Program, an education program targeting dealer salespeople “to become performance experts.”
“We have already trained our sales team and are coming to train yours,” Pickens said. “We will sell performance tires with confidence to help ensure your stores become the ‘go-to’ outlets for performance tires. And we are not only going to be successful in the performance market, we are going to pursue the mid-tier and continue our strong momentum of 2011.”
Pickens said it was vital that Goodyear’s tire plants be “aligned to the marketplace,” and that throughout the value chain, everything is connected and driven by a “market-back view.”
“Its critical that we fulfill demand – from consumers to retailers to wholesalers to Goodyear – from an evergreen ‘core product screen’ that prioritizes the tires that your customers need,” he said.
Goodyear dealers will see five new consumer tire products this year, including additions to the tiremaker’s popular Assurance and Eagle lines.
Available in 14 sizes – with eight more coming later this year – the Goodyear Assurance CS TripleTred All-Season was developed as a premium tire for SUVs and CUVs, with wet, dry and snow/ice tread zones. The tire will carry a 65,000-mile treadlife limited warranty, and Goodyear’s 30-Day Pledge.
The Eagle lineup was updated with the addition of the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season, which follows the same three-tread-zone formula as the Assurance tire, and the Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2, a UHP entry targeting sports cars and luxury performance vehicles.
The Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season carries a 45,000-mile treadlife limited warranty, is tunable for OE applications, Goodyear said, and has W- and Y-speed ratings over 36 different size combinations. The Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 will be available in 26 popular sizes.
Also new on the Goodyear slate is the Goodyear Ultra Grip Winter, which will be available for the 2012-13 winter season. Once completely rolled out, the new model will include 36 sizes for passenger vehicles, ranging from 14- to 19-inch wheel diameters.
The Dunlop brand is getting its own new entry, as well, with the Dunlop Signature II, which replaces the first-generation model, carries a 65,000-mile treadlife limited warranty, and is offered in 28 sizes ranging from 14- to 18-inch wheel diameters.
Truck Tire Ramp-Up
The commercial tire side of the meeting was handled by recently installed Commercial Tire Systems president Phillip Kane, with a three-way interplay by Donn Kramer, director of product marketing, Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems; Doug Wittington, Goodyear director of commercial tire sales; and Mark Pillow, director of business solutions for Commercial Tire Systems.
Kane said that the tiremaker heard its commercial dealers’ pleas for product loud and clear, and has “added manufacturing capability at our plants” and is “producing more premium Fuel Max and DuraSeal products than ever before.”
Production of Dunlop-branded radials will be increased “by almost a quarter-million units in 2012,” he noted, adding, “We’ve cut out nearly one-third of our SKUs” overall. “That reduced complexity in our plants, so now we can put more of the right products in your hands at the right time.”
Kramer, Wittington and Pillow each took turns updating dealers on progress made with the FleetHQ program, the TVTrack software system, a new “trailer-readiness program” to help fleet customers meet new CSA requirements, and a new Utility Event Response program to provide emergency tire services to utility crews responding to emergencies.
They also introduced four new commercial tire and retread products, including:
• Dunlop SP348, an all-position steer tire for regional fleet, school bus, and pickup and delivery applications, available in sizes 11R22.5, 225/70R19.5, 245/70R19.5, 10R22.5, 12R22.5, 11R24.5 and 295/75R22.5. Two sizes – 285/75R24.5 and 255/70R22.5 – will be added during the second quarter of 2012.
• Goodyear G619 RST for spread axle trailers, with an 18/32-inch tread depth, four-belt casing and a high scrub compound, in size 295/75R22.5 in Load Range G. Three new sizes – 11R22.5, 11R24.5 and 285/75R24.5, all Load Range G – will be released during the second quarter of 2012.
• Goodyear G741 MSD for oil field, mining, logging and construction applications with a 33/32-inch tread and wide footprint, available this May in size 11R24.5, Load Range H.
• Multi-Piece Cushion, a tread cushion gum that has three distinct layers to help extend its shelf life, eliminate the strip gum from sticking to itself while in storage, and deliver a more consistent mix.
Putting a bow on the two-day meeting was chairman and CEO Rich Kramer, who spoke about how the tiremaker had worked to make the event “more meaningful and valuable” for dealers.
“Change is a constant, and our business is changing,” Kramer said, “But our goals are simple and straight forward: Be first with our customers; win in targeted market segments; be the leader in innovations; be competitively ‘advantaged’ in everything we do, be more efficient; be the company of choice for our customers; and create sustainable value for consumers, customers, partners and shareholders.”
The tire industry, Kramer said, “is a truly global affair, and emerging markets continue to drive the market – China, Southeast Asia, Mexico and South America. More of these populations are moving into the ‘middle class’ in their economies, which translates into more cars – and more cars means more raw materials and more tires.” This, he noted, will put a squeeze on both raw materials and finished goods.
And, he said, “The ‘green trend’ is not a trend, it is here to stay.”
Government regulations on emissions are impacting OEM demand, and as gas prices continue to rise, there will be greater demand from consumers for energy savings, He noted.
With that as a backdrop, “Why should you choose to be a Goodyear customer?” he asked. “We have the best products in the industry, we have the finest group of professionals the industry, we are executing our strategy that will create sustainable value, and Goodyear will connect you better to your markets and customers.”
To view exclusive photos from this event, click here.