Linglong's New North American Subsidiary President Maps Out Growth Strategies

Linglong’s New North American Subsidiary President Maps Out Growth Strategies

Geoff Doster, president of Linglong N.A. Sales, discusses the company's position in the market as well as his goals for the new subsidiary.

In August, Linglong Tire established a new subsidiary, Linglong North America Sales, headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The company appointed industry veteran Geoff Doster as the president of this newly established entity. Now, with a few months worth of his getting his feet wet in the position, Doster stopped by this episode of What’s Treading with Tire Review to reveal his vision for the future of Linglong, as well has how he intends to navigate the company’s challenges and aspirations going into 2024.

“Linglong’s been doing business in North America for 20 years, and the goal of the North American team is for us to first elevate our brands in the marketplace, as well as our marketing, our branding, our programs, our product lines, and segments to the market to make sure that we’re actually hitting the needs of our customers and our end consumers,” Doster says. “At the end of the day, I want to be a supplier of choice. I want to be a supplier that exceeds the expectations not only of our customers and our business partners, but also our end consumers.”

On this episode of What’s Treading with Tire Review, we speak with Geoff Doster about Linglong’s position in the market and his long- and short-term goals for the new subsidiary. We also discuss Doster’s predictions about North America’s competitive landscape heading into the new year and the advantages of being able to meet the unique needs of customers in different regions.

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Here’s a transcript of the show:

David Sickels: Hello and welcome to What’s Treading with Tire Review. My name is David and I am the editor of Tire Review. On today’s episode, our guest is Geoff Doster. He is the president of Linglong North America sales. I’m really excited to speak with Geoff today because he has this long, storied career in the tire industry, but he’s fairly new in this position, so I’d like to hear what his plans are to grow the new subsidiary.

Geoff, thank you so much for taking the time with us today. I know you’ve got to be busy having just stepped into this role in early August. We’re talking about Linglong Tire’s new North America sales subsidiary. You’re coming from a long career at TBC, so give us just a little bit about your background, and how are things going there at Linglong?

Geoff Doster: Well, just a little bit about me, I joined the tire industry right out of college. Right as I graduated from the University of Georgia, I spent my first six years working with Michelin in multiple roles in terms of not only the consumer but the brand marketing and sales planning. Also, in terms of working in many different geographic areas in Texas, Utah, and a couple of tours of duties in Greenville, South Carolina, as well. After that tenure, I joined TBC. At the time I joined the Carroll Tire organization. Those of you who have been in the industry for a while know that Carroll Tire was a wholesale outfit that now I guess has become NTW. But also worked within the Treadways and also the TBC brands, which is where I’ve been for the last 12 years before joining here.

I had a long career with TBC, a great opportunity with those guys, a great company. I look forward to continue working with them in the future. But saw an opportunity, as you know, with Linglong in terms of the next chapter of my career, and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity with that as well. To the point in terms of the state of Linglong, where we’re at, business is really strong. When you look in terms of the evolution of what’s happened in the marketplace, from COVID to production, supply concerns to overstock of products, catching up with supply chain, to the market that you see that’s really bounced back with the growth of value brands.

Linglong is in a swing zone right now and we are very, very strong – in particular, in PCR. I think really our only limitations have been some of our production capabilities of keeping up with the bounce back that I’ve seen coming in that. From the TBR perspective, TBR has been a little bit of a lag from the PCR where we’ve seen some of the slowness that’s happened there. And then a lot of the things that you’re seeing in the marketplace with duties of some of the uncertainty. So I think there are a lot of unknowns in regards to the TBR, but our business continues to be stable there as well.

David Sickels: This subsidiary, it’s only six or so months old at this point. Are you able to share some of your short-term goals? And then what are some of your long-term goals? What are you hoping to accomplish in the next five to 10 years?

Geoff Doster: Well, when you look at the development of what we’re doing with a North American team, I’m looking to elevate and enhance. Linglong’s been doing business in North America for 20 years and the goal of the North American team is for us to first elevate, and when I mean elevate, I mean not just elevate our brands in the marketplace, but also elevate our marketing, our branding, our programs, our product lines, and segments to the market to make sure that we’re actually hitting the needs of our customers and our end consumers. Now, when I talk about the second part of enhancing, that’s more of our B2B and our business relationships. It’s how do we enhance our customer support? How do we enhance and develop our partnerships with our dealers better?

One of the things that I’m really focused on is making sure that we have the capabilities, that we can match the world-class supplier of product that we are in terms of tires, but also with the sales execution and operations here for those customers as well. So it’s really, when you get into the short term, it’s elevate and enhance. Now, if I was to sit here and talk about the long-term piece of it, aligned with our manufacturing and branding global outlook, our goal is to be a fully integrated global tire company. And it’s not only from a product performance standpoint, I also want to make sure that we have the segments, that we also have the product range and the correct value proposition. But at the end of the day, I want to be a supplier of choice. I want to be a supplier that exceeds the expectations, not only of our customers, our business partners, but also our end consumers.

David Sickels: That’s very interesting, especially in terms of marketing. Can you speak to any short-term marketing goals that you’re trying to accomplish or maybe short-term marketing efforts that you intend to implement?

Geoff Doster: Well, as part of our team, we’ll be bringing on vice president of marketing. We’re in the process of that right now. That will be North American-focused. That will be integrated with our team back abroad. But that person and that team will be there to develop not only our brands, but also our strategies within our product lines.

I look at where we are with our branding, and we have a lot of opportunities to be able to go out and tell our story and help develop our brands. And not just help develop our brands but also help develop with our customers the selling story and the strategies to go out there and properly evaluate and value our brands in the marketplace. We have to provide those tools for our dealers.

David Sickels: So, in your eyes, what is the primary benefit of Linglong creating this North America subsidiary, rather than focussing its efforts on maybe amping up its marketing from its core business?

Geoff Doster: I look at this in the sense that when you look at the development of brands, you’ve heard the term think globally, act locally, right? That’s the same thing. And in my history, I’ve also done international business as well and managed a company that did international. Each market has its uniqueness. The European market is different than the Central American market versus the Middle East market versus the Southeast Asian market. And it’s the same thing in North America as well. Even within North America, the market is different within Canada and Mexico and the United States. So having that local market expertise and understanding the branding strategies, the product distribution strategies, the value proposition in terms of where you want to position your product and who you want to align with with the winners in the marketplace, having that local knowledge is paramount to your overall success. Yeah, and that’s where I look in terms of the investment that Linglong is putting in here is more than just talk. It’s actually putting in the resources here to help develop our current business, but also help develop strategies to grow with our current business and also grow new business.

David Sickels: That makes a lot of sense. And I mean, even when you look at the tire business within the United States, things are so different depending on if you’re in the Northeast versus the Southwest. I mean, it can be a completely different market, a completely different landscape. With all that being said, this new subsidiary is located in Palm Beach Gardens in Florida. What makes that a good location for you?

Geoff Doster: It’s a great talent base in the sense that it’s a sought-after place to live for one. And really we have our facility that’s really focused on the R&D and the engineering base, which you obviously know is there. But in terms of building not only a team and with the remote strategies that we see out there, it’s an area that we feel that allows us to be able to work with customers, but also develop and have the talent base in terms of being able to have the right people in the right positions.

David Sickels: How do you foresee the competitive landscape evolving in North America over the next few years? And then how do you want Linglong Tire to position itself in that evolving market?

Geoff Doster: Well, I think the landscape is going to continue to evolve. I mean, in the last couple of years you’ve seen massive amounts of consolidation. Consolidation not only at wholesale, consolidation obviously at retail, and also consolidation in the commercial sector. And when you look at the space that’s there, the bigger getting bigger, and the relationships are changing. The dynamics of being able to not only control the product and control the brand in the marketplace are changing. As I look in terms of where we are with Linglong, we already have great long-term relationships with a number of the winners in the marketplace.

We want to make sure that we’re continuing to support those relationships and grow those relationships, be it on our brands or even the brands that we manufacture for them. But, at the same time, we also want to position ourselves to be with those winners that we see that are happening in this market. As consolidation happens, because you see it happening every day, I think it’s every other month you’re seeing a retailer that’s being bought out by another private equity group. Or you’re seeing consolidation in wholesale. I see Linglong being able to position itself with those key winners in the marketplace.

David Sickels: I think you’re totally right and saying every other month for that consolidation I think is pretty conservative. I think it’s happening all the time. All the time. So you’re absolutely right there. Can you share with us a little bit more about the specific product segments and offerings that are going to be a focus for this subsidiary going into 2024, even possibly ’25 if you’re looking that far ahead?

Geoff Doster: So when you look at the Linglong brands, we have brands that obviously we own. One of the things that I want to make sure that we’re focused on is rounding out those brands to be full brand product portfolios. So case in point, we’ve got a lot of focus of our efforts into the XT and RT light truck categories in some of the brands that we’ll be focusing on. The other part, keeping it in the PCR vein, is the EV. But what’s really interesting is in the EV segment, Linglong is one of the leaders in China because the EV population of vehicles is a lot larger over there than it is here. But we are going to make sure that we take an American or a North American-focused product that’s going to address this market. There are not just EVs, but also hybrid vehicles as well, because that’s one of the larger opportunities. Surrounding that out of making sure that we have a product that meets the needs, the performance expectations of our customers and our consumers.

And then the other that I would look at in terms of on the PCR is you see the booming all-weather segment. All weather is something that you really find in the northern territories that you’re going to find in the United States, but also in Canada it’s an option as well. As that segment continues to evolve, and I’m talking about the winter tire segment as well. There are places that need just winter tires, but all weather, although it’s taken some time for that to grow, I think it’s actually hit some critical mass and the opportunities within the value tiers. Now, if I were to flip over to other product segments, TBR is one as well. TBR is that we want to make sure that we have products that are designed and focused on meeting the needs and challenges of the equipment and also the terrain with North American markets.

One, in particular, would be a true all-season last mile delivery type product in the 17- and 19-inch. And making sure that we have those products that can meet those as well. And the same thing having a last-mile delivery product for the Sprinter vans and so forth, that’s not only an all-season but also an all-weather. So worked a lot with the product team here, as you know, with many things of developing that roadmap. But, obviously, things take time and make sure that we bring them to fruition. But we want to bring them to market in the right way. We need to work with our customers to make sure that we’re not just making a product just because, oh, look, there’s a need. We need to work with our customers to make sure that it fits the right product positioning within the screen and hits a need and desire with the customers as well.

David Sickels: I’m curious, you mentioned when you were talking about EV tires, you were talking about the difference between the needs of a customer who might be living in China versus the needs of a customer who’s living in North America. Can you speak to that at all? What is the difference there?

Geoff Doster: Well, a lot of it would be the different performance standards that you’re looking for. Granted, we all know that EVs have high torque. That’s just a piece of it. I would look in terms of how the EVs are used. One of the things that I look at with EVs right now is that EVs continue to be very, very popular, and as you go forward, the hybrid vehicle too is probably the larger population. And I think the market will ultimately decide where it’s going to end up going. Is it going to be more hybrid or is it going to be more EV? And I think you could even see in some of the latest companies and their results in terms of EVs, they’re struggling in terms of the profitability of that. Ultimately, the consumers are going to be the ones that are going to drive which technology is going to be able to succeed. So for me, it’s having a product that if I’m going to go after … I want to have a product that meets the needs of not only the EV but also the hybrid vehicle.

David Sickels: That makes a lot of sense. Well, Geoff, thank you so much for your time. Again, I know you’re super busy, so this means a lot that you took the time to speak with us today. Hopefully maybe a year down the road or so we can revisit and see how things are going.

Geoff Doster: I would love to. Thank you for the opportunity.

David Sickels: Okay, that was a lot of fun hearing from Geoff and what the subsidiary’s plans are to grow in the North American market. Obviously, Linglong is very well known in many parts of the world. They’re trying to grow and get a broader American base. I’m really excited to hear from him. Hopefully sometime next year we can get an update and see how things have evolved. Until then, we’ll see you next time.

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