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Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. gained some breathing room from its short-term financial obligations by renegotiating loan agreements, but Wall Street analysts and the tire industry are keeping a close eye on Goodyear as it struggles to gain positive momentum.

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we can keep our fill rates up," said Dave Hudrlik, vice president of sales and marketing. Even with those constraints, Hudrlik said Kumho sales should grow to $333 million in 2003.

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To do that, Hudrlik said, Kumho is rolling out a number of new products and line extensions, including the run-flat Ecsta MX XRP in 245/45R17 and 275/40R18 to fit the C5 Corvette; new 18- and 19-inch tuner sizes for the Ecsta Supra 712; six new 15- and 16-inch sizes of the Ecsta HP4 716 all-season touring tire; two new sizes for the Touring A/S 795 line; and expansions in Kumho’s Road Venture S/T K11, A/T KL41 and M/T lines.

In addition, Kumho has changed its pricing program to "make it easier for dealers," added new dealer sales incentive programs, and will open a new distribution center in Chicago to handle the Midwest.

Kumho has re-upped its BASS sponsorship, which will have its events covered by ESPN2, and has expanded its SCCA and CORR racing efforts. Plus, Kumho added a 56-foot racing trailer that will service events and provide support for dealer-level ride-and-drive events. Kumho is also sponsoring Track Time driving school in Michigan, through which it will offer adventure-driving trips to dealers.

With the support of its parent company, Kumho will be running both "global brand" ads, and national TV and regional cable ads to support local dealers.

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Kumho also relaunched its Web site (www.kumhotireusa.com), adding numerous new features for consumers and dealers, including an online "marketing vault" with support materials, brochures, advertising art, photos, wearables and much more.

Michelin Introduces Radio Frequency Tire ID Technology

Michelin says it has developed a radio frequency identification (RFID) transponder that is built into the tire and tracks tire identification information.

With RFID, tire identification numbers can be associated with the vehicle identification number (VIN), making the tires identifiable to a specific vehicle, telling when and where the tire was made, maximum inflation pressure, tire size, etc.

"This innovation has attractive implications for tire makers, for vehicle makers and for consumers," said Tom Chubb, vice president of new product development for Michelin Automotive Industries Division. "For vehicle and tire makers, it means a simple and innovative way to comply with federal record-keeping standards, including those of the new TREAD Act. For consumers it means convenience and confidence."

The RFID transponder is made up of an antenna and an integrated circuit, which has a higher data capacity than a bar code, but is about the size of a match head. Operating at an ultra-high frequency, the RFID tag can be read by a hand-held device or one mounted 24 inches or more away from the transponder. Once collected, the information can be stored in a database for accurate and easy retrieval. And, unlike a bar code, the tag isn’t affected by soil or deterioration.

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The information on the circuit can also be modified to reflect new data, such as the VIN number of the vehicle on which it is mounted. Fairchild Semiconductor and Philips manufactured the circuits.

Michelin’s contribution to the RFID system was its modification of the antenna attached to the device and treatment of the device that makes it possible to vulcanize the assembly into the tire.

Other tire makers have demonstrated similar technology. However, Michelin’s RFID is the first to meet the Automotive Industry Action Group’s B-11 standard for North America, as a "cured into the tire" solution.

Michelin said fleet testing of the technology is currently under way and says it will gladly make the technology available to the entire industry. The tiremaker will most likely introduce RFID through the OE market, it said, noting the technology could soon be feasible for replacement tires as well. At least one international OEM is working with Michelin to bring RFID to market as an option in model year 2005.

Bridgestone/Firestone Seeks to Educate Teen Drivers

Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire (BFNAT) has partnered with Driver’s Edge, a non-profit youth driver-education program, in an effort to lower the number of traffic accidents involving youths through hands-on driver education.

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According to NHTSA, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds, with more than 8,000 occurring in 2001.

As part of its nationwide 2003 Drive & Learn program, BFNAT will be an official sponsor of Driver’s Edge. The 2003 program kicked off Feb. 8 in Phoenix and will be available in 10 other cities this year.

"Experience has shown that young drivers who receive the type of training provided by Driver’s Edge are better prepared to safely respond to all sorts of driving conditions," said Mark Emkes, BFNAT chairman, president and CEO. "For this reason, driver education of this group is extremely important. We are proud to be a part of this outstanding program and this excellent opportunity to make a difference in youth driving safety."

"Driver’s Edge is the only program in the country of its kind," said Jeff Payne, a professional racecar driver and instructor who founded the program. "Comparable programs would cost about $450 per person, but we’re able to offer Driver’s Edge at no cost to the students, thanks to the support of companies like Bridgestone/Firestone. Many states have done away with behind-the-wheel driving instruction in public schools, so there’s a real need for this kind of hands-on education."

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Payne expects the nationwide program to reach 6,000 students this year. The four-and-a-half hour program, which involves classroom and course instruction, teaches students skills in evasive lane changes, anti-lock and panic braking maneuvers, and skid control. In the classroom, students learn about driving after a tire blowout or in icy conditions. On the course, students are taught vehicle dynamics, load transfer, driving in the rain, and the handling differences in front- and rear-wheel-drive vehicles.

Driver’s Edge will make stops in Los Angeles (Feb. 22-23), Dallas (Mar. 8), Nashville (May 10-11), New York (May 17), Washington/Baltimore (June 14), Detroit (July 18), Minneapolis (July 24), Oklahoma City (Aug. 16), San Francisco (Sept. 13) and Salt Lake City (Oct. 4). Students may register to attend one of the events by calling (877) 633-EDGE or online at www.driversedge.org and www.bridgestonetire.com.

Michelin Retread Technologies Launches New Distribution Program

Michelin Retread Technologies Inc.’s (MRTI) new associate dealer program will "significantly increase" its number of points of sale, the company said. The Michelin Retread Network currently has more than 200 points of sale.

The Michelin Retread Associate Dealer Program will allow Michelin’s entire new tire dealer network – not just MRTI franchisees ®“ to sell and service new and retreaded Michelin commercial truck products. MRTI said its retread sales network could include more than 1,500 new tire-servicing locations.

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"The increasing demand for Michelin retreads is an excellent growth opportunity for new tire dealers," said Randy Clark, vice president of marketing for Michelin Americas Truck Tires. "This program is a great way to offer the complete line of Michelin commercial products – both new tires and retreads ®“ that fleets are demanding."

Yokohama Wants 5% Annual Growth Over the Next Three Years

Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. is looking for 5% annual sales growth through 2005 as part of its plan to achieve an operating earnings/-sales ratio of 8%. The plan involves three major strategies: an emphasis on high performance tires, a launch of "world-level" new truck and bus tires, and expansion of its export businesses.

Overall, the company wants to see net sales of $3.8 billion in three years, a 15% increase over 2002. The company’s "1-5-8 financial goals" for all its businesses call for the achievement of at least one completed turnover of total assets, an annual average sales growth of 4.8%, and an operating profit to net sales ratio of 7.6% in 2005.

The goals are part of corporate design strategy, which was devised by forecasting changes in lifestyle, the automotive industry and other factors for the next 10 years, Yokohama said.

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Tia Names Littlefield Executive Vice President

After a seven-week search and more than 70 candidates, TIA went for experience in hiring Dr. Roy Littlefield as its new executive vice president. Littlefield, whose tenure began Feb. 14, has served in a number of government affairs and lobbying roles for TIA and both its predecessors, and has also served as a trade association executive.

Littlefield replaces Ross Kogel Jr., who resigned last December to join his father’s Troy, Mich.-based Tire Wholesalers Inc. TIA’s six-man search committee chose Littlefield, whose appointment was approved by the executive committee.

"I am deeply honored to be chosen for the position,"said Littlefield, who has been working as a lobbyist for TIA since last summer’s association merger. "With the help of the volunteers, I am looking forward to implementing the strategic plan and improving conditions for tire industry business. I really believe we can work together to add value to our industry and our businesses."

Littlefield began his tire industry career in 1979 as director of government affairs for the former National Tire Dealers and Retreaders Association (NTDRA). In 1984, he joined the former American Retreaders Association as the part-time director of government affairs. That same year, he became executive director of the Washington/Maryland Service Station and Automotive Repair Association. In 1994, he became executive vice president of the Service Station Dealers of America and Allied Trades. He resigned those posts effective Feb. 14. Littlefield is also an officer of the American Highway Users Alliance, one of Washington’s strongest highway lobby groups.

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Brodsky Group Withdraws offer to Alliance

After lengthy negotiations, the Harvey Brodsky Group decided to withdraw its offer to purchase 51% of Israel’s Alliance Tire.

In late August of last year, a formal memorandum of understanding for majority share, worth $50 million, of the publicly traded Alliance was made. According to Harvey Brodsky, the head of the group and managing director of TRIB, the group withdrew its bid because of continuing instability in the Middle East and Alliance’s inability to restructure outstanding loans to its major lenders. Brodsky said these issues led the group’s major European investors to reconsider their position and withdraw.

"We believe Alliance continues to have enormous potential and we regret that we were unable to complete the deal," Brodsky said. "We wish them well and will gladly return to the negotiating table should conditions change in the future."

Brodsky also said his group would continue to actively pursue other investment opportunities in the rubber and plastic industries worldwide.

WTE Has More First-Time Exhibitors than Ever

The 2003 World Tire Expo (WTE) will have more first-time exhibitors than ever before when it returns to Louisville, Ky., Mar. 26-29. First-time exhibitors include Action Equipment, Exactra, Flamex, Marathon Equipment, Premier Rubber Co., Spallinger AutoClave and TCS software.

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"We are excited at the expansion in new exhibiting companies for 2003," TIA President Tom Raben said. "This variety of new companies will bring a more diverse product base to the show floor and will establish World Tire Expo as the key event for the commercial tire, retreading/repairing, and tire and rubber recycling markets."

WTE is being held at the new Kentucky International Convention Center, with more than 100 exhibitors. Attendees can save up to 50% on registration by registering online at www.WorldTireExpo.org. The online system also allows users to reserve hotel rooms and purchase tickets to WTE special events. Attendees can also register by calling 703-736-8082.

Expo attendees can also set VIP buying hour appointments online. The VIP times are designed to allow for exclusive one-on-one time with exhibiting companies and early access to the exhibit hall. Scheduling is conducted on the WTE’s Web site.

RMA Offers Preliminaries of Production/Shipments

The RMA has released its best estimate for domestic tire production and shipments for 2002. The 2003 Preliminary Tire Industry Factbook covers activity during 2002 based on 11 months of actual tire shipment data and estimates for December.

The data, which is derived from an industry-reporting program operated and directed by RMA members, is preliminary and subject to change as more information becomes available, the RMA said.

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"This new publication is a response to our customers’ needs," said Steven Teslik, RMA vice president of market information services. "The data in this preliminary factbook will provide an extremely useful overview of tire industry production to those who need it now."

The 2003 Preliminary Tire Industry Factbook costs $200 and can be ordered online at www.rma.org or by calling 202-682-4865. Buyers will also receive the final version, available in late spring, and for an additional $100 service fee, all raw data for the preliminary and final factbooks in electronic spreadsheet format can be purchased.

National Car Care Month Moves to April

Previously held in October, National Car Care Month has been moved to April this year, according to the Car Care Council (CCC), which puts on the event.

"While National Car Care Month has traditionally been held in October, recent consumer research shows that springtime resonates better with motorists," said Rich White, executive director of CCC. "Warmer weather and visions of the family auto vacation inspires consumers to work on their vehicle or take it to a service facility."

National Car Care Month’s purpose is to enlist automotive shops, along with businesses, civic groups, radio stations and others to sponsor free vehicle inspections, including safety and emissions checks. The Vehicle Check Lanes, which is what these events are referred to as, are usually held in the parking lots of shopping malls, schools, businesses and other locations. Volunteers check fluid levels, tires, lights and other components during a stop, discrepancies are reviewed, and customers are provided information about proper vehicle care. For more information, visit www.carcare.org.

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