Vehicle miles traveled is up. Connected vehicles and electric vehicles are here, and Bridgestone is diving headfirst into the vehicle trends of today as well as those coming down the line. During its Core Tire Business meeting this week, Paolo Ferrari, the company’s president and CEO, told dealers that while tires remain at the core of Bridgestone’s business, the company is investing heavily in tire and mobility solutions that will not only help it maintain its leadership in the tire business but also help dealers thrive in a changing mobility landscape.
“The exciting part of this is that it’s actually happening despite skepticism,” Ferrari said during the meeting, held virtually Nov. 16. “But it means we all have to adapt. We are adapting from a tire’s point of view to a mobility point of view… and of course, this requires our dealers to upgrade their own journey from a connectivity point of view.”
Ferrari said Bridgestone has made large capital investments behind technology and solutions over the last year, including its $391 million acquisition of digital fleet management company Azuga that closed in September. While technologies like digital fleet management and electrification may change the industry, he highlighted that Bridgestone dealers play an integral role in the company’s evolution.
“You are a key part of this journey because together, we sell tires to customers, together, we sell solutions to fleets, and together, we can see how we can accelerate the intelligent tire journey,” he explained. “You are the accelerator and enhancer of this journey.”
Ferrari said while Bridgestone prides itself on product innovation, it also focuses on having the right mix of businesses to not only serve the market today but also in the future. To do this, the company is focused on three key areas, or platforms, of its business, which includes tires, tire solutions and mobility solutions.
“It’s about creating value as a system,” he said. “All of these platforms we create, they deliver value but they deliver a lot more value if they plug into each other…Our business partners, like you, our dealers, are transversal to all of this because you sell our tires.”
During his opening remarks, Ferrari explained the key trends in the automotive market, how Bridgestone is responding to them and how they’re impacting dealers. In line with Bridgestone’s new brand tagline, “Solutions for Your Journey,” he reviewed how Bridgestone is providing both dealers and consumers solutions in an evolving mobility landscape.
Ferrari outlined the three focus areas of Bridgestone’s business: tires as the foundation, tire solutions that build on top of its premium products and mobility solutions that tie all three together.
Starting with the tire space, Ferrari explained how Bridgestone is capitalizing on its position as a Tier 1 tiremaker, forming partnerships with OEMs that help the company raise the bar on its technology. He said Bridgestone has entered into the high-performance segment with key fitments on high-performance vehicles such as the Ferrari Roma and Lamborghini Huracán. In addition, Bridgestone gained a 22-in. fitment on the 2022 Cadillac Escalade this year.
“They’re a very important fitment for us, but very important to you guys, too, because all of these styles are coming to the replacement market at a very healthy price,” he said.
Bridgestone’s OE business is also focused on gaining fitments on EVs coming to market. Ferrari said although the car parc of electric vehicles is currently small, it will grow to make up half of U.S. new vehicle sales by 2030, and this is a trend worth paying attention to.
“This is good for us because it’s good for technology,” he said about how the evolution toward EVs will change tire technology. He added that EVs will also be a great service opportunity for dealers, since their tires typically wear faster and will need services such as tire rotation and alignment more often.
Tires as a Service & Mobility Solutions
Another level of Bridgestone’s business is tire-centric solutions, which Ferrari said is about creating value for consumers, and in turn, for dealer businesses. With consumers buying more of an experience with a certain brand, Ferrari said shifting to subscription-based services is on the horizon for Bridgestone and its dealers.
“They want ‘X’ as a service. Tires as a service. Maintenance as a service,” he said.
Ferrari said Bridgestone’s investment in IntelliTire and TireMatics, two of the company’s tire intelligence platforms, are good examples. IntellTire, for instance, allows the tire to be part of the connected vehicle through a sensor and to send customers alerts about their tire health.
This trend can also be seen in Bridgestone’s investment in fleet management solutions, including its recent investment in Azuga. Ferrari said fleets, both consumer and commercial, are an upcoming trend in the industry and an area of investment for Bridgestone.
“More and more, fleets are becoming a key part of an evolving ecosystem of connected vehicles and connected platforms,” he said. “Fleets will be connected through a fleet management solutions platform, and I think our investments will be good for you guys participating in this ecosystem of platforms so that we all can connect more with our customers and serve them better.”
In particular with Azuga, Ferrari said Bridgestone can optimize the use of their tires within a fleet management framework. With 6,000 fleet customers and 250,000 connected vehicles, Azuga, along with Bridgestone’s other connected platforms, will allow the company to collect data to manage the efficiency of fleets.
“It’s about the environment, economics, productivity, uptime and efficiency of how we really manage the fleet because they have converging needs,” Ferrari said. “Therefore, we can provide converging solutions, which are scalable and efficient. All these platforms can work together as a system to provide an ecosystem safety, environmental benefits and productivity.”
In adding to the tire solutions model, Ferrari highlighted the company’s Bandag retread business as a platform that adds to the value chain in a fleet management landscape. “Bandag is truly an example of our vision because it’s good for society and good for business,” Ferrari said, adding that it’s in line with the company’s sustainability goals.
Lastly, Ferrari highlighted the investments Bridgestone has made in mobility solutions, including autonomous driving and predictive maintenance. For example, the company has invested in Reach, an app that alerts drivers to vehicle maintenance to avoid accidents and unplanned repairs. In addition, Ferrari touted the company’s investment in RESOLV, a subscription service that covers oil changes, new tires and a variety of car maintenance, as well as its partnership with Kodiak Robotics, an autonomous trucking company.
During his presentation, Ferrari also touted Bridgestone’s sustainability efforts, noting the company’s commitment to 100% carbon neutrality and 100% renewable resources in its tires by 2050.
Sustainability, he said, applies to the company’s entire supply chain working together “to turn this crisis into an opportunity.”
“We’re at a point of no return when it comes to sustainability,” he said. “We’re really thinking about the societal impacts of our products, our solutions, end-to-end, to make sure we clearly give a value-add to our planet and to our industry… Clearly, the way we manage our suppliers, we’re very strict so that they’re very serious about their own sustainability journey through the supply chain.”
Ferrari said the company is also taking action to reduce CO2 emissions at its plants and create a circular economy so that tires are recycled back into raw materials at the end of their life.