“There’s no going back. If you picture the inflection point as the apex of a hill, we’re over the top, on the other side and picking up speed,” said Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company Chairman, CEO and President Rich Kramer while articulating Goodyear’s “Driving Forward” theme during its virtual Dealer Conference on Thursday.
The foundation of that theme was presented in an opening video that highlighted Goodyear’s philosophy that, “While no one could have predicted the scale and scope of challenges we all faced in 2020, the company is always preparing for what’s around the corner, to chart the course through market curves and turns, so its dealers can continue to run and grow their business and build their future with Goodyear.”
Painting a picture of resilience, especially among our industry and its essential businesses, Kramer applauded how Goodyear dealers kept their store open, delivered tires, kept fleets on the road, and made it possible for people, food, medicine and critical supplies to get where they needed to be.
And, while many compare this year to that of the Great Recession, Kramer said he believes the rebound will be different from 2009 in a critical way, in that “everything will happen faster.” “Even though it may be hard to visualize now, things, in fact, will get better just as they did in 2009,” he said. “We saw the beginnings of that during the third quarter when volume snapped back, not to previous levels, but enough to create a supply challenge that didn’t exist three months earlier.”
Without the pandemic, adoption of technology to bolster convenience would have taken three to five years, or maybe longer, said Kramer, in referencing the sharp uptick in online shopping, home delivery, no-touch service and curbside pickup, all driven by a “digital transformation.” Digital platforms, preferred by consumers for buying everything from groceries, all the way to tires, were born from a desire for convenience, but they matured quickly because of the need created by the pandemic, he explained.
So, what does all of this mean for us and for our businesses? Kramer provided advice and perspective to help define what “driving forward” looks like, which he presented in the form of an equation.
The first part of that equation is redefining success. Kramer cautioned dealers not to define their success by going back to the way things were before the pandemic, since we are working within a “new normal” set of circumstances. “Think about the new things you did to run your business. You probably discovered processes that were more streamlined than the way you were doing them,” noted Kramer. “You had to adapt new technology. You had to rethink your offerings. You had to deliver on what your customers expected.”
Kramer also pointed to how well dealers used new online tools as an alternative to meeting customers face to face at the store, and how they pivoted to meet new demands of pickup and delivery or switched to a touch-free process. He commented on how the pandemic changed hiring and inventory management processes, and how new tools and working from home helped dealers work through the unique challenges of this unprecedented time.
The Value of ‘And’
The second part of the equation is the value of “and,” where Kramer stressed the need for dealers to simultaneously manage the daily operation of their dealership, and to also keep an eye on the future, if they want to keep their businesses moving forward.
“Today, you’re working harder than ever to sell tires, take care of your customers, keep fleets on the road and manage your inventory,” Kramer said. “Even with the current effects of COVID, we’ve past the inflection point and change is coming even faster,” he continued while referencing this quote from Thomas Edison: “Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets planning.”
In the spirit of opportunity, Kramer cited some examples of emerging opportunities in the market, including electric vehicles and hybrids, where investments in these technologies are increasing among automakers, adding that new companies such as Lucid Motors, Rivian and Nikola are coming out with new models in 2021 that will be powered by electric or hydrogen technology.
“Now, remember, there are about 325 million cars on the roads in the U.S. and Canada today. That’s an abundance of business for you now, but, make no mistake, EVs are here to stay,” advised Kramer. “And, the opportunities they present for you to win tires will remain their primary need and service requirements will change because of engines with fewer moving parts. So, run your business for today, but manage it for tomorrow.”
The third part of the equation is a partnership with Goodyear. With so much disruption, acceleration and change in our industry, Kramer said dealers’ choice of business partners is more important than ever. “We’ve already taken the lead on preparing for the coming of electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, connected vehicles and fleets. We’re redefining success, not based on what our business looked like in the past, but in ways it can lead in the future. We remain focused on what your needs are today, whether it’s great products, innovative marketing and sales tools, or fleet management services, tire maintenance programs and total mobility solutions.”
Goodyear also has its sights on helping shape the future of new mobility to create more opportunities for its dealers in the years ahead, and has increased its investments and focus on the future, said Kramer, pointing to the company’s intelligent tire development that has now recorded more than 5 million miles on the road. “We’re working with multiple partners and collecting data. That’s proving vital for enhancing safety performance and handling of new vehicles, including future EVs,” he added.
As our industry comes out of the shadow of COVID-19, Kramer said people working together will ultimately keep us all driving forward. “Let’s be confident about what we can do, encouraged by what we’ve done and fearless in the face of what’s to come.”