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08/01/2019
2018 ends on a positive note premium tires and all-season in the limelight

The aftermarket trade show

 

All-Season tires, distribution networks and premium products are the main issues facing top manufacturers operating in the Italian tire market. 

Paolo Ferrini

All-Season tires, distribution networks and premium products are the main issues facing top manufacturers operating in the Italian tire market.

A constantly evolving scenario, in which distribution networks, whether branded or independent, play an increasingly important role given their ability to professionally offer not only products that meet the expectations of the end customer as much as possible, but also all those light assistance services that drivers may not have the time (and desire) to seek from more than one specialist. Top tire manufacturers are clearly pushing in this direction. Is there a move towards creating organisations that resemble car dealers? High-end products, especially with large diameters, seem to be unaffected by the transformations currently affecting the sector and, even though the total numbers are inevitably lower, they do not seem to be experiencing any major market shock, while All-Season tires now account for 15-20% of all deliveries, with summer and winter products yielding part of their market share.

 

Stefano Parisi, managing director of Bridgestone South Region

During the January - October 2018 period, Bridgestone recorded a higher turnover in the Italian market compared to 2017, thanks to the favourable effect of high-end tires sales on the total  volume compared to the previous year. The market scenario is showing a rather noticeable contraction in the demand for summer tires in favour of winter and All-Season products, which continues in its relentless growth (trends will be confirmed in 2019).

Two pivotal events marked Bridgestone’s, and consequently the market’s, 2018: the launch of the new Touring Turanza T005 in February and the first Bridgestone Weather Control A005 All-season tire in May.

In the motorcycle sector, sales volume and turnover were also positive thanks to the introduction of new Radials and Scooter tires.

The digital revolution is radically changing the market. Bridgestone, through the use of data and technology, hefty investments in R&D and unceasing customer focus, is seeking to create new mobility solutions aimed at offering higher efficiency, convenience and sustainability than ever before: as an example of this, Bridgestone launched, in the trucking sector, its new FleetPulse or the three-in-one solution made up of a mobile App, a centralized website and a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) that will be available in Italy from January 2019.

Looking at the demand in the Truck & Bus market, this fell slightly in the first half of 2018 and picked up in the second half. In this scenario, Bridgestone's presence is strengthened by several of its own brands covering all market segments. As far as the agro-industrial market is concerned, the demand dropped slightly though expectations for a positive second half of 2018 are high. Bridgestone continues to gain market shares with both its Firestone brand in the standard segment and as Bridgestone in the premium segment. The focus is on meeting the needs of an increasingly demanding farming industry in terms of sustainable performance over time and providing state-of-the-art mobility solutions. Given the success Bridgestone’s Partner Truck network, we have extended the same concept in the agro-industrial sector, adapting its content and strengthening existing synergies.

 

Alessandro Cerutti, commercial director BU TL replacement Continental Italia

Continental Italia is perfectly in line with its expected growth targets, despite a sluggish market, in particular the summer segment, partially offset by a thriving All-Season segment. We have undoubtedly benefitted from the soaring sales volumes of the latter, although we are convinced that it still represents a compromise and that the best solution is to equip your vehicle with winter tires in the colder months and summer tires when temperatures rise. The special compounds, design and construction elements used in "proper seasonal" tires make them more effective in terms of both performance and safety. Continental considers the All-Season tire to be the perfect low-mileage product suitable for non-extreme weather conditions.

As far as the winter segment is concerned, it's still too early. We will see how the sell-out goes, since this part of the business depends strongly on weather conditions.

Premium product sales are doing great and we are particularly pleased with this, because it means we did well in developing and consolidating our customer base, which strengthened our position in the market. In addition, we gladly noticed how most professional fleet managers are going back to choosing premium brands after years in which cost containment featured as the most important parameter favouring low-cost brands. This means that premium brands guarantee a better price/quality ratio and professional operators are now openly admitting it. We are thrilled by this turnaround because our premium brand - Continental – has always offered very high quality standards and the best in terms of technological innovation.

In fact, we observed, once again - a consolidated tradition now - that our winter product excelled in the tests carried out by specialized magazines, confirming products such as our WinterContact TS 860, the latest in a long line of ground-breaking winter tires, as one of the best tires on the market.

For 2019, we expect current trends to be confirmed. In terms of market structure, we believe that the process of amalgamation and upgrading of distribution channels is not yet over and that further innovations can be expected. At retail level, the transformation process that began two years ago is expected to continue. Small independent retailers, not part of any distribution network, are being cornered by the market. Hence, we expect networks directly linked to manufacturers to start taking over the market soon. BestDrive, Continental’s official sales and assistance channel, is busy working to reposition our offer towards the end user focusing on a greater purchasing experience. However, this will require new professional skills on issues such as customer relationship and service. Large independent networks will also grow and develop significantly thanks to their business model.

Within the next two or three years, many operators will have to decide where and with whom to invest their resources to guarantee themselves a future in the business. 

As far as the products are concerned, All-Season tires will continue to grow, eroding market shares traditionally held by summer products, while fleet tire replacements will strengthen the demand giving the market a substantially stable outlook.

 

Elena Versari, sales GM consumer Goodyear Dunlop Italia

In 2018, the market was quite stable, with growth recorded in the most profitable segments. Sell-out figures at the end of the year will be affected by weather conditions but the last quarter remains a typically strategic period for Goodyear as we make the most of the tests on our winter tires to support point-of-sale traffic with promotional activities and customized offers for commercial fleets.

2018 is proving to be a great year for Goodyear Italia, with a growing turnover thanks to our top of the range products and SUV tires. Consolidating trends – growing demand for All-Season tires on the one hand and a higher demand for wheels with larger diameters on the other – provided a healthy boost to products such as our Vector 4Seasons, a proven success in the All-Season segment, and the new Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 SUV, specially designed to adapt to the characteristics of new and increasingly popular SUVs.

For Goodyear these are dynamic times. Our teams are working closely with the SuperService network dealers to create greater in-store traffic, diversifying the business with the aim of managing seasonal peaks and increasing revenues. We are also looking at new digital tools to enhance our customers’ online experience and direct them to our best retailers, whom we support in the digitization process with dedicated training courses and updates.

The motorcycle-scooter tire market was greatly affected by heavy spring rains. Nevertheless, Dunlop’s new Hypersport range as well as a new tire dedicated to trail riding, achieved excellent results in larger and more profitable segments.

Looking at the transport sector, the market is still recovering, albeit in a rather inconsistent fashion, due in part to the doubts linked to the current Italian macroeconomic scenario, but we can still foresee a considerable growth in 2019.

Goodyear is focusing on the premium segment by expanding its fleet offer to include both service as well as product (Fleet First offer, Pro-active solutions).

Overall, while we expect 2019 to be quite stable and confirm current market trends, Goodyear's Business Units are ready to launch several new strategic products and services designed to provide retailers who believe in us with new tools designed for mutual growth and success.

 

Marco Princigalli, commercial director Yokohama Italia Magri Gomme

Over the years, planning has become increasingly difficult: whoever is called upon to devise new strategies must inevitable consider every small sign from the market. Towards the end of 2017, talks of anti-dumping duties on truck tires imported from China were significant: hence we had to carefully plan supplies even more carefully, which allowed us contain the negative impact for our group. In the first half of 2018 the situation became more complicated and the transformation taking place in the market is now plain to see. Moving production sites, are bound to generate slight inconsistencies in production and little recovery in prices during the first part of 2019.

As far as the car market is concerned, current trends will likely continue also in 2019: larger diameters and a solid winter market and an All-Season market that will erode market shares from summer tires (both in the car and the light transport segment). The All-Season market, which represents 15% of the Italian market, is now a viable proposition for our company thanks to the launch of new Yokohama and GT Radial tires. Our commercial policy in 2019 will certainly follow market trends.

 

Francesco Capurso, sales network manager Italia direct retreading and services business unit of Marangoni

In Italy, the retread market is still shrinking as far as sales volumes are concerned. Year-on-year figures are still negative, although the trend is improving slightly.

The main dynamics affecting the market in the first half of 2018 were, on the one hand, the seizure of Chinese tires before the definitive introduction of excise duties and, on the other, on-going pressure from a growing OE market in 2017, which reduced the need for tire replacements especially for commercial fleets. However, from the third quarter, things changed for us retreaders due to a shortage of Chinese tires and the difficulty second brands products experienced in meeting market demand. This is leading customers to regain the confidence in retreaded products that had weakened over the years.

The scenario is still quite complex as raw material costs are rising and this will require careful evaluations and revised price lists. The challenge is also to create business solutions where product and service are part of the same package. In fact, we are witnessing a relentless growth of the cost per kilometre market and, more generally, of customers seeking to receive a complete management of the product, rather than just the product itself.

We need to offer a package that includes new and retreaded tires as an effective solution to reduce costs. Extending the life cycle of a tire, which would otherwise be discarded, is also important in view of establishing a circular business model, over which much has been said but very little has been done.

As a consequence, I foresee that the slowdown in the OE market will drive the recovery of the replacement segment from 2019 with short-term positive effects for all, especially retreaders following the recent final implementation of excise duties on Chinese imports.

 

Marco Giuliani, commercial director Michelin Italia

The on-going instability of the weather, along with the versatility of these products, means that, even in 2018, the All-Season car market is recording the best figures. Because of this and the need to meet the requirements of all users, the CrossClimate range has been expanded to include the SUV market and light transport segments, where Michelin has launched the CrossClimate SUV and AgilisCrossClimate ranges.

The winter market is gaining ground and remains the stronghold of premium brands. The volumes of winter tires in Italy account for about one third of the market, which is why Michelin renewed its offer in 2018 with 3 new products: Alpin 6 for compact cars and sedans, Pilot Alpin 5 for sports cars and Pilot Alpin 5 SUV dedicated to crossovers and SUVs. As with All-Season tires, premium tires take the lion’s share in the SUV sector.

On the truck market we are witnessing a very dynamic year, with clashing trends determined by the anti-dumping policies implemented by the European Commission, with downward estimates of Chinese imports and the estimated growth of European-based brands, with a slight recovery of the retread market. In this context, Michelin confirms its leadership, also thanks to the recent renewal of some of its product lines such as X Multi for multi-purpose use and X Coach for long distance passenger transport. Additionally, 2018 saw the debut of BF Goodrich in the heavy transport sector.

In 2019 we aim to grow even further thanks to an increasingly successful new/retreaded/multi-brand proposal. Growth also continues in fleet services with Michelin Services&Solutions, which saw a significant increase in the number of commercial fleets managed in 2018.

In the two-wheels sector, the market was rather disappointing. Nevertheless, Michelin launched new products such as Road 5, dedicated to the Sport Touring segment, a particularly important one on the Italian market, confirming its leading market position.

Expectations are high for 2019, a year in which a slight recovery of the global two-wheels market is expected, and Michelin, not to be outdone, will update some of its ranges and launch the new Anakee Adventure, aimed at the growing road enduro sector (and already available as original equipment on the best-selling bike in Italy, the BMW R1250 GS).

 

Claudio Zanardo, Ceo Pirelli Italia

In 2018, Pirelli confirmed its pure consumer company strategy, with its Car, Bike and Velo business units. Another key element of our market positioning is our focus on high-value products: our Prestige division is constantly working with the most reputable brands on the market and the share we have gained in original equipment is constantly growing. The effectiveness of the Perfect Fit strategy, which offers "tailor-made" tires to car manufacturers, was clearly demonstrated by the more than 2,800 approvals we obtained covering 55% of OE's share in this segment. Our special products have also been successful: we exceeded 500 run-flat approvals (including around 100 winter tires and 90 all-season tires) and we cover about 97% of sizes from 18" upwards with 24 exclusive product codes. Tires equipped with PNCS (Pirelli Noise Cancelling System) have doubled between 2017 and 2018, particularly on high-end sedans. Meanwhile, Pirelli’s Research and Development efforts are aimed at finding new solutions, such as connected tires, which are constantly evolving, both for private individuals and commercial fleets.

Following the trends in the automotive world, we also worked on All-Season tires. Here, Pirelli was able to respond effectively to the growing demand for All-season products with the expansion of our Cinturato All-Season Plus range, designed to guarantee total mobility for all motorists, a common need with many consumers who use their car in cities with below average mileage. In particular, the Cinturato All-Season Plus range equipped with Seal Inside technology makes up about 50% of Pirelli's offer. On winter products, the increasingly wide range of tires mounted on 18" wheels and upwards has enabled us to strengthen our leadership in a surging market. We simply follow the market in our choices. In fact, the rising demand for winter tires prompted us to be particularly attentive towards the top of the range segment and we responded with an large number of approvals ready to be mounted on some of the latest vehicles; which means that when these are ready for replacement, following the Perfect Fit logic, they will represent new sales opportunities for our network. Here too, we are engaged in developing new affiliated stores and expanding our Driver network, which is now 25 years old and covers 90% of Italian provinces.

2019 will be full of news and challenges,  but our clear strategy and personalized approach, along with the desire to reach our goals together with our partners and all tire operators around the world who know and recognize in Pirelli Italy’s brand of innovation, sportsmanship and passion.

 

 

 

 

Not only producers but also importers. For some time now, several importers of emerging tire brands have also been entering the Italian market. We heard from some of them and they told us how 2018 went for them and what expect from the new year.

 

Aldo Ercole, Mnaging Director Tires Italia

Davanti, a new brand launched in the United Kingdom by a company with the same name, has already made a name for itself on the European market. Tires Italia, exclusive distributor for Italy, saw the light in June 2017. 2018 was the most successful year on the Italian market. The important investments made, such as our "partnership" with the Bologna Football Club, the work of our team of experts and dedicated projects reserved for our specialist dealers Davanti Point Partner allowed us to achieve sales results above our expectations and to establish Davanti as an emerging brand in Italy. Our priority for next year is total coverage of the National market, expanding our sales force and partnerships but always ready to guarantee exclusive coverage of any area, the strength of our project. In addition, we plan to upgrade our customer care services, expand the range with new sizes, both winter and summer, not to mention the launch of our new All-Season tire scheduled for the end of the year, all activities that will, no doubt, contribute to the achievement of ambitious targets such as a 40% increase in sales compared to 2018. In order to provide greater visibility to the brand with new and interesting opportunities for our partners, hefty advertising investments will be made throughout 2019.

 

 

Massimo Lippi, Cst Tires Car And Bike Sales Manager

CST Tires, distributed in Italy by its exclusive agent B.I.S., has completed its portfolio of car tires by introducing not only new summer products but, above all, new All-Season and winter tires that were still lacking from its offer. The PCR range has been present in our country (bridgehead for the whole of Europe) since 2015 and has been joined by a dedicated range for off-road motorbikes, quad/ATVs and bicycles tires, already widely established in Italy, where CST Tires has been present for over 20 years. The introduction of a new automobile tire range boosted the company’s turnover. The All-Season in particular, as was expected, is exercising the greatest "appeal", able to quickly burn the stages thanks to a very promising quality/price ratio. The creation of a brand new R&D centre and the adoption of all the international production standards in its production plants, enhanced the quality of the product as well as general public perception of the final consumers. A very positive 2018, therefore, and great expectations for an equally positive 2019, which will open with the company placing a wager on retaining its most important stores and creating a network of affiliated partners, the CST Orange Point. The program will be officially launched at the beginning of 2019 and aims to reach about 200 affiliates in two years thanks to several not-to-be-missed advantages for tire dealers, identifying direct and indirect promotional levers. Thanks also to this initiative, we aim to consolidate and complete our network, which can already boast large dealers and important local wholesalers. Finally, as our All-Season and winter lines are progressively enriched with new R17, R18 and R19 sizes, this will inevitably lead to further development in our sales volumes and turnover.

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