How has Goodyear India weathered the slowdown in the Indian market over the last 18-20 months?
Goodyear India has built great positive momentum in recent years, and continued it during 2014 through product and service innovation, operational efficiencies, channel development and innovative marketing initiatives.
Goodyear India's overall performance was outstanding in 2013, registering an increase of 67 percent in PAT for full year (Jan–Dec) 2013 over 2012. Sales and other income also increased by over six percent in challenging market conditions in the automotive industry.
Growth in our consumer (passenger) tyre business was an important factor and we remain a significant player in both replacement and OE. We achieved this through increased investments in services and key marketing and brandbuilding initiatives to create further awareness, connect with more consumers and drive sales. We also introduced innovative new products and technologies, such as RunOnFlat tyres and more recently the Assurance TripleMax tyre.
Overall, the consumer replacement business is performing creditably, gaining market share in a very competitive market.
Goodyear India also continues to lead the market in farm tyres. We have done this by working on manufacturing efficiencies that helped raise production, thereby meeting the increased demand from the farm segment OEMs. The OE business contributes disproportionately compared to replacement business in the overall farm business and we have sustained leadership by focusing on developing trust with our OE partners. We have had longstanding business relationships with OEMs, delivering consistent quality, quick and fair service, transparency in pricing, and creating support in the form of a best-in-class team. These actions haves enabled us to grow and increase our share faster in the farm category. They have also contributed to the strengthening and consolidating of our leadership position in this important segment. The farm business – both OE and replacement – managed to not only beat expectations for 2013 but set a new record for revenue and EBIT.
What is your current range and which are the most widely used by OEs?Goodyear’s tyre range in India caters to the needs of customers in three distinct areas: passenger (including SUV), farm and OTR (Off The Road). The Goodyear DuraPlus is a very successful passenger tyre that offers increased mileage for everyday driving. This tyre also proves popular with vehicle manufacturers in India as an OE fitment and has been selected on a wide range of platforms.
A new tyre we are very excited about that has now launched in India is the Goodyear Assurance TripleMax which succeeds the Assurance Fuel Max. The Assurance TripleMax tyre provides an improved wet braking performance, stopping shorter than other tyres on wet roads. We are expecting it to be very popular with both vehicle OEMs and consumers.
For passenger tyres in general, the increasing sophistication of vehicles and growth in SUVs in India is providing Goodyear with opportunities to capitalise on its advantages in tyre innovation and product leadership. For example, the Goodyear Eagle range has been popular among driving enthusiasts – including the F1 GSD3 and F1 Directional 5 performance models – as does the EfficientGrip and Excellence in the luxury segment.
In SUV tyres, we have a wide variety of uses, from high performance on-road SUV sports cars to real 4x4 off-roading. Across the Goodyear SUV range of tyres, popular models include our quietest ever SUV tyre – the EfficientGrip SUV – in the highway terrain category, and the Wrangler range such as the AT/SA for all- terrain driving.
In farm and OTR tyres, Goodyear India is working on innovative projects for growth in both OE and replacement. A key driver is the launch of new radial tyre technologies that have been introduced in the farm segment with a very positive reception from customers.
What aftermarket initiatives have you taken?
We see opportunities for profitable growth in both the OE and replacement markets. In OE, we look for fitments that align with our target market segments in the performance, passenger, SUV and farm markets. In replacement, our market-back innovation approach continues to drive our new product offerings in line with what our customers and consumers are seeking in their aftermarket tyres – real world benefits, such as shorter braking capabilities, increased durability, fuel saving and lower noise levels.
Another key strategy Goodyear India is focusing on is improving our retail and channel distribution capabilities, so consumers can better access our products. Our channel partners are a core constituent of our growth story. Our business performance is also aided by strategic initiatives in the service domain and brandbuilding activities, such as the Worry Free Service programme, which is helping the consumer replacement tyre business improve confidence levels with both dealers and consumers.
Safety has become a major issue in recent years. Since tyres quality/ maintenance constitute a key part, what initiatives has the company taken in this regard?
To help encourage safety on our roads, Goodyear India offers a Fast-Aid service beyond just our quality tyres. This is a service through which drivers are provided roadside assistance with the purchase of Goodyear tyres for certain breakdown and emergency conditions. We have also been proactively engaging consumers in partnership with our OE channel customers at their dealerships – educating and improving awareness on basic tyre care and maintenance. Similarly, we have also undertaken a marketing campaign in conjunction with retailers through the promotion of a 'Tyre Maintenance Card'.
Setting a new standard in tyre innovation, the new Assurance TripleMax uses Hydrogrip technology, a Goodyear proprietary innovation that allows drivers to reduce braking distance on wet roads compared to other tyres in the market today. The Goodyear Wrangler AT/SA has also been built to improve traction and grip, and therefore safety, in all terrain driving conditions.
Goodyear RunOnFlat is another revolutionary technology introduced in India. It is based on the concept of reinforced sidewalls inside the tyre. When a standard tyre deflates, it simply collapses under the weight of the car, allowing the beads to come off the rim and the sidewalls to be squashed onto the road. The pressure can destroy the tyre within a few kilometres. The reinforced sidewalls in RunOnFlat tyres keep the tyre on the rim and succeed in carrying the weight of the car for up to 80km in distance. RunOnFlat heralds a new era of safer roads.
In relation to low rolling resistance tyres, Goodyear’s Fuel Saving Technology in products such as the Assurance TripleMax, Eagle EfficientGrip and EfficientGrip SUV is designed to improve a vehicle’s fuel efficiency by lowering tyre rolling resistance. We have deployed state-of-the-art technology in rubber compounding, tyre construction and manufacturing to deliver on this rising industry need. Goodyear internal tests show that the Goodyear Assurance TripleMax lets drivers go further for less and reduce emissions, displaying a rolling resistance improvement of up to 31 percent.
India’s roads are not the best to drive on. What does this mean for your tyre products and have you done in-house research to improve tyre quality?Globally, Goodyear has innovation centres in Akron, Ohio and Colmar-Berg, Luxembourg that strive to develop state-of-the-art products and services. At Goodyear, we invest heavily in having the right products that our customers want.
This means Goodyear focuses on designing tyres that address real-world consumer needs. Goodyear India’s R&D collaborates closely with Goodyear’s global innovation centres on developing products for the local market. We can leverage the company’s technology leadership, while also enhancing product performance specific to local Indian conditions. Some of the areas Goodyear India collaborates with Goodyear’s global innovation centres are in areas such as new product development for export and local markets; development of farm radial tyres; optimisation of tyre constructions and compound formulations to enhance product performance; continuous improvement in manufacturing processes and product quality to improve customer satisfaction; reductions in organic solvent usage, process waste and energy usage; technical support in the use of Continuous Improvement Systems (CIS) tools such as Six Sigma / Lean to improve productivity and lower cost, and more.
This interview has been published in the November 15, 2014 issue of Autocar Professional.