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SRNA Kicks Off COVID-19 Dealer Resource Forum

Sumitomo Rubber North America Inc. (SRNA) launched its first internet-based COVID-19 Dealer Resource Forum on April 14, inviting its dealers and distributors to hear from executives about how COVID-19 has impacted the company’s business. SRNA executives also shared insights on the impact that the coronavirus is having on the tire industry and major automotive market growth indices.

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Darren Thomas, SRNA senior vice president of sales and marketing, said the company is planning bi-monthly 45-60-minute forums to help keep its dealers stay up-to-date on the current situation. In future forums, SRNA executives said they plan to cover industry trends and issues and provide tire market data to help dealers gain a better understanding of the automotive landscape today. 

The following are some key takeaways from SRNA executives who presented during the forum. SRNA divisions covered in the forum were consumer tires, truck and bus radial (TBR) and original equipment, as well as Dunlop motorcycle tires.

Rick Brennan, vice president of strategic planning

  • With more than 306 million people under some form of lockdown, several automotive market barometers are affected. The impact to OE volume, for example, resulted in a 12.5% decrease in new vehicle sales in Q1, according to SRNA data.
  • The pandemic had a big impact on vehicle miles driven. Passenger car and light truck miles driven were down 47% during the first week of April, according to data Brennan cited from INRIX. During the same period, trucks were impacted to a lesser degree with miles driven down only 15-20%.
  • TBR tire sales were up 10% in March, Brennan said, citing U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association shipment data. Passenger car and light truck tire sales didn’t fare as well, with decreases of 16% and 12%, respectively.

Matt Leeper, director of sales, consumer

  • Leeper said dealers are reducing the number of tires in their inventory and some are reluctant to place winter tire container orders now, which is typically the buying timeframe for winter tires.
  • In talks with dealers, Leeper said their April sales are approximately 50% of their 13-month average.
  • There is some good news: SRNA backorders are declining from historically high levels, especially for WildPeak H/T02, CT60 and A/T3W, Leeper said.
  • Leeper added dealers are in a “serve vs. sell” state—cutting hours and deliveries, cycling employees’ hours and modifying advertising and promotional programs. He said dealers finding success now are those who are offering a diversified tire lineup (for example, a blend of TBR, ag and consumer).

Bob Klimm, director of sales, TBR

  • While truck tire sales were down 8% and 14% in January and February, respectively, compared to the market, March sales had a strong finish with a 10.4% increase, according to SRNA data.
  • Klimm said by most accounts, commercial tire dealers had a decent first quarter, but April is now tracking at 30% below average.
  • Commercial segments that are doing well because of increased demand during the pandemic are: OTR, ag, waste, local delivery trucks and mail haulers.
  • Klimm said construction is a “mixed bag” because there is variance among states as to how “essential” construction businesses are defined.
  • Inventory-wise, Klimm said SRNA is in great shape with product availability.

Dave Colletti, vice president, OE/Tech Services/QA

  • Due to several North American vehicle assembly plant closures in March and early April, lost vehicle production amounted to 1.8 million vehicles, Coletti said.
  • Colletti said the good news is that many auto plants are resuming operations in mid-April. He said SRNA is optimistic about OEM vehicle production schedules resuming soon and is ready to ship them tires.

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