Tire Review Editor Patti Renner Hoying sat down with Joanie Martin of Michelin North America at the 2018 Movin’ On conference in Montreal to talk about the company’s goals, structural and distribution changes and her new role within the organization. Earlier this year, Martin was named chief administrative officer for the tiremaker, reporting to Michelin North America Chairman and President Scott Clark. In her new role, Martin is responsible for key business-support functions including communications, corporate development, finance, legal services, personnel, safety and environment among others. A 22-year veteran of Michelin North America, she recently served as chief financial officer for the company. Before that, she was financial director and controller for Michelin’s passenger and light-truck tire business across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Tire Review: In your view, what does an independent tire dealer need to understand about both the trends [presented at the conference] and how to prepare for the 2048 goals (of 100% of used tires recycled) and for some of the other Michelin initiatives. It seems to be very much a corporate vision. Yet how does that impact the person at the counter? How does that trickle down to the actual point of sale for people reading this?
Joanie Martin: “From my perspective, you think about everybody involved in the chain, from raw material all the way through toward selling our tires – selling any tires in the industry – and using tires from a consumer standpoint is involved in this overall industry and its implications. I think that what Michelin’s done recently is starting the conversation to advocate from a consumer point of view. So if you’re at the counter, you are the one I’m looking at face to face. They are the ones giving the advice to the consumers, helping them find the best tire for their vehicle. And we’re really trying to advocate for the consumer point of view as far as how they need to consider what tire they choose, what tire they ride on, what tire they use for the future.”
TR: How are you going to be communicating the environmental initiatives and impact down to the dealer level?
JM: “I think that starting the conversation, and really continuing the conversation. As far as the environmental impacts, we’ve been developing technologies… really ahead of the industry asking for it, to help protect the environment and what we’ve done is put a stake in the ground to say we’re going to keep doing that, and in fact, we’re going to set a very specific ambition albeit out into the future for 2048. So I think that message needs to get out. Again, it’s a vision, so as far as the day to day, there are two different spheres there.”
TR: How are you working with government entities in some of these initiatives, like for instance the scrap tire debate going on right now in Washington? And at the same time, you’re doing your worn tire testing and trying to lead that conversation across the industry. How are you working with the government – is it with USTMA? Do you have your own voice or advocates? How does that work when it comes to the collaboration and the informing and influencing of policy on these issues?
JM: “Again, from a North American perspective, we’re following The Group’s lead in opening this discussion about tires and their performance essentially over their life, again, with the focus on the consumer, with the focus on the public. We think it’s important information to know, and it’s something that can be a bit missing in today’s world. Understanding that performance from a number of components – certainly the safety over the life of the tire, but definitely the end of life… and about tires coming off too soon and the environmental impact there. I think we’re at the early phases of really starting that conversation and trying to build some discussion, awareness, advocacy around there. On an ongoing basis, we certainly are a member of USTMA, and we work as a partner with them along with the other manufacturing partners on the automotive issues in the industry, and there’s a lot of discussion about regulation and the future and such.”
TR: I’m curious because you’ve got dealers who can’t wait to sell another set of tires, and then you guys are coming out saying, “You know what? Keep those on a little longer.” It’s kind of contradictory to unit sales, to the movement of commerce, to the replacement tire marketplace. So why?
JM: “Well, at the same time, I’m sure that the person at the counter and the dealers would agree that that value proposition for the consumer is a happy consumer, a consumer who trusts you with that purchase and who feels that they got the best deal for their needs and such, is really the priority there. So, do you take them off right now? It’s a matter of, is it more immediate or are we really looking at that value proposition for the consumer and building a lifelong advocate for both the dealership as well as the tire brands that we sell.”
TR: Is there any information you can give me on how the independent tire dealers, both commercial and passenger might play into the 100 percent recycling initiative? How are they going to fit in this?
JM: “We are in the phase of really building that advocacy and understanding certainly of the effect concern, the question about how our tires perform over time and when is the appropriate time to take them off, which obviously leads into the question about recycling. We’ve always been certainly advocates and partners with the rest of the industry is that isn’t industry question on those kind of issues.”
TR: So you’ve been in your role since the first of the year. What do you see as your vision? What are your goals in your new role?
JM: “It was 1996 when we reorganized previously, so it’s been a long time since all our employees at the Group level globally, but also in North America, have had to deal with a different hierarchical organization and such, one that may internally seem that it’s more complex when we’re trying to talk about being simpler…. The thing that to me is of great value is the fact that we have simplified. We’ve really been intentional about trying to simplify the organization for our customers, our partners out there so that they don’t see Michelin as a lot of different people they have to see, our focus in what do, that we take action quickly. I think the very positive thing to me has been what we’ve done, that our customers are starting to recognize it, as well as how our employees and our teams have really embraced the new organization and the change and the opportunity to, you know, give a refresh going forward across the organization.”
TR: How much of your former CFO role overlaps your current role?
JM: “Well, fortunately I was able to negotiate getting an exceptional CFO to replace me. Matt Cooney has come into the role and he’s someone with great experience and not just financial.”
TR: What is it that I didn’t ask you that you wish I had, that you’d like to communicate to your dealer network about the company but the direction of the company?
JM: “For our dealer network, they should understand and hopefully they see (and if they don’t, they should feel free to communicate to us) that we are absolutely committed to being an even more customer-centric organization. And that is across the board with everyone. We’ve always been very product, technology, innovation-driven and obviously that’s our DNA. We won’t change it. The more we can make it easy to do business with us, the better we think are our prospects for the future are. That makes them key partners as they’ve always been, but we really want to hear their voice.”
TR: So, when it comes to being easy to do business with, is that as far as digital ordering, is that distribution with your new partnerships? What does that mean exactly?
JM: “It’s really everything that they consider when you put yourself in the shoes of our dealers, our customers, whether it’s certain product availability, something that’s always been a challenge, making sure we have the product that they need when they need it, to our value proposition, as well as just being easy to transact with quickly. How do we onboard a new customer? How clear is our invoicing process? Some of our commercial terms such, are they very clear to them? Does it meet their needs? And we’re really working very hard on that, as we always have, but I think there’s a heightened focus. I’d love for them to see the difference in what we’re doing, as well as feel very confident that they can communicate to us where we can improve.”
TR: Last question. How’s it going with the new partnership with TBC (referring to the newly create NTW joint venture between Michelin North America and Sumitomo Corporation of Americas)?
JM: “It’s going very well. I think it’s a real opportunity for TBC as a corporation obviously to grow and benefit from that partnership, but especially for us, it’s about that distribution, combining Carroll Tire and TCi Tire Centers in order to, again, better serve our customers, but this is complex, especially in the passenger tire side and a bit on the B2B side as well, that we can provide better service to them with having a broader offer and a more complete nationwide offer with those two organizations. It’s going well. Like anything, we’re going through the changes of combining the organizations. It’s only been since the beginning of April, so we’re about six, seven weeks in. It’s an exciting time.”