There wasn’t much to distinguish this year’s Goodyear Dealer Conference from last year’s – or, for that matter, the 2011 edition. But that absence of drama, that sameness was welcome news for the 2,100 tire dealers, independent distributors, suppliers and guests who attended the Jan. 27-29 event at the Gaylord National near Washington, D.C.
Dealers love consistency from their suppliers, especially if that means no disruptions or other headaches. Consistency was held up as Goodyear’s badge of honor; every presentation talked about it in one form or another, and the conference’s “On Target” theme provided the constant placeholder. And the point was punctuated with the keynote appearance by baseball ironman and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., the hallmark of consistency.
“I’m sure many of us remember when this meeting was all about change, all about what’s new and different,” said Steve McClellan, president of Goodyear’s North American Tire unit, early in his show-opener. “There was a time when that was needed, but that’s not what’s driving us now.
“You’ll hear and see many of the same things you’ve heard from us before, but we don’t believe we’re being repetitive,” he continued. “We believe we are more aligned than we’ve ever been.”
McClellan recounted the tiremaker’s NAT strategy and how it fits with its dealers. “There’s more consistency and integration, within our own business teams and with all of you. That stability is driven by a commitment to our strategy,” he said. “And our strategy hasn’t changed. A strategy without consistency is really not a strategy at all.”
In recounting 2012 performance, Jack Winterton, president of the NAT consumer tire unit, continued the theme, and reminded the audience that Goodyear’s strategy is rooted in the concept of generating, capturing and fulfilling demand.
“We have been consistent in our approach and our resolve, and we would like to believe that you recognize what we stand for,” he said. “We are market driven, we are steadfast in building our brands, we are relentless in the pursuit of new products, we are capitalizing on the mega-trends of the industry with our investments, our targeted market segmentation is paying off, we value our aligned retailers, we value our wholesale distribution model, and we believe that whatever we do has to be under the umbrella of ‘Good for consumers, good for our customers and good for our shareholders.’”
Goodyear’s North American exposure will continue along the same lines as last year, according to NAT chief marketing officer Scott Rogers, who gave dealers a rundown on the company’s consumer-directed advertising and promotional successes in 2012. Rogers also unveiled a pair of new TV spots to support a pair of key product launches: the Eagle Sport and the Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure.
Goodyear’s long-standing relationship with NASCAR will be a key component of the tiremaker’s 2013 campaigns in print, in the air and online, Rogers said. And online tools web and social will continue to be deployed heavily to “influence shoppers and get them to you, to buy our brands.”
Ryan Patterson, vice president of operations and customer development, reinforced to dealers Goodyear’s OE strategy of “selectivity” and how its focus on fitments helps drive consistent, high-margin business for both the tiremaker and its dealers. And he also revisited “segmentation,” and how that is driving replacement market efforts, new product development and ongoing product support.
Patterson also noted that more attention will be paid to the Kelly-Springfield brand in 2013, with the addition of 15 sizes “extending the brand’s coverage to 90% of the targeted market,” new POS materials and dealer training, and a revived website “to drive Kelly brand tire sales to you through the dealer locator.”
During his presentation, Todd Pickens, senior director of consumer sales, recognized Goodyear dealers who earned national recognition over the past year including Tire Review Top Shop Award Finalist McGee Tire in Lakeland, Fla. and the 2013 winner of Goodyear’s “Put More Good On The Road” award, Houska Automotive of Fort Collins, Colo. Cited for his ongoing charitable efforts, owner Dennis Houska collected a crystal plaque and a check for $10,000 to be presented to the charity of his choice the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department.
Commercial Tire Strategy
While “consistency” was still a key for the NAT commercial unit, that group made some news of its own with a name change for its holistic fleet emergency tire service system: FleetHQ became Goodyear FleetHQ.
“We know that the Goodyear name adds confidence and credibility to everything we deliver,” said recently minted commercial tire marketing director Gary Medalis. “This means applying the Goodyear name to many of our assets” to leverage “the power of the Goodyear brand to benefit you.”
Medalis also noted the “revitalized Kelly brand” will occupy the economy tier in Goodyear’s commercial portfolio. “We believe a re-energized Kelly is going to be a great fit for your business,” and it is “an important part of our long-term strategy.”
Phillip Kane, vice president of commercial tires for Goodyear’s NAT, actually led off the commercial discussions with a challenge to his team and Goodyear’s truck tire dealers: “We intend to grow this year, and we need your help to do so.
“If you’re not selling the full value of our offering, we need you to. If you’ve given shelf space to someone else, we want it back,” he said. “But not just because I asked you for these things, but because we will earn them, and because you’ll be better off as a result.”
Earning that business will take added efforts, but Doug Whittington, commercial tire sales director, outlined enhancements Goodyear has made to its fleet support services including Goodyear FleetHQ that will make the tiremaker a more valued asset to dealers and fleets alike.
Additionally, Goodyear’s commercial tire unit has “re-aligned our sales team to have more of our people actually calling on end user fleets to grow our business, and your business,” said Whittington. “You will see more of this dedicated sales assistance to grow your local book sales, while also being preferenced when servicing national accounts.”
As usual, Goodyear chairman and CEO Rich Kramer wrapped up the two-day meeting, and his remarks heavily referenced the company’s focus on consistency at all levels.
In his 24-minute address, Kramer said there were four “transformational points that helped us to get where we are.” Those were “the courage to make decisions in a difficult market,” “collaboration aligned across the entire organization,” becoming better aligned with dealers to improve forecasting and “improve the supply chain,” and “accountability for execution” where the NAT team is “playing for the long term, not 2013 or the next year.”
Kramer continued, “We’ve made progress, but we have more to do. We need to prepare for growth because it is coming,” and “we need to win with these customers” and not take the business for granted.
New Products Bow
The Dealer Conference is usually Goodyear’s launch pad for the year’s planned new products, and the 2013 edition was no different. A slew of new Goodyear and Dunlop tires made their formal debut.
Goodyear Eagle Sport All-Season: Available in June with a full lineup of 47 V- and W-rated sizes by the end of 2013. The tire carries a 50,000-mile tread life limited warranty.
Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure: Available in September with 44 sizes by the end of 2013. The tire carries a 60,000-mile tread life limited warranty on metric and LT-metric sizes.
Goodyear G661 HSA (19.5-in.): The new size is set for pick-up and delivery applications, and is now available in size 245/70R19.5, Load Range G. Another size, 225/70R19.5, also Load Range G, will be available in July.
Dunlop Sport Maxx RT: The tire is available in 17 sizes covering 17- to 19-inch wheel diameters.
Dunlop Sport Maxx Race: Available in seven 19-inch sizes.
Dunlop SP Winter Sport 4D: The tire replaces the SP Winter Sport 3D, and will be available this fall in 18 sizes covering 16- to 19-inch wheel diameters.
Dunlop Winter Maxx: Available this fall in 47 sizes ranging from 13- to 19-inch wheel diameters.
The aforementioned new Kelly tire sizes include: Kelly Explorer Plus 205/65R16 T, 225/65R16 T and 225/60R17 T; Kelly Safari Signature 225/60R17 H, 225/65R17 H, 235/60R18 H and 245/60R18 H; Kelly Charger GT 215/45R17 V, 215/50R17 V, 225/50R17 V, 225/55R17 V and 235/55R17 H; and Kelly Safari ATR 235/70R17 S, 245/65R17 T and 265/60R18 T.