Bridgestone: a glimpse into the future
How has Bridgestone changed in the last thirty years. Stefano Parisi and Davide Viancino describe the present and immediate future of one of the world leading tire makers.
The ability to exploit its global presence combined with a local "go to market" strategy is, according to Stefano Parisi, the key to the global development and success of the Bridgestone Group. The Japanese brand, considered a distant and unknown entity just thirty years ago - at least in Italy - is today one of the world's leading tire manufacturer and boasts fifteen years of experience in some of the top racing categories such as Formula 1 and MotoGP. "The secret of this transformation," says Bridgestone Italia's Top Manager, "is our ability to create and take advantage of global synergies through our assets, in terms of presence, services, products and customers, found in various parts of the world (think for example to our research centres and test tracks in Japan, Italy and the United States) that provide Bridgestone with a new cultural reference".
An unprecedented transformation
"At a practical level, this means developing a global product that preserves locally appealing characteristics as well. It's a daunting challenge indeed, yet, looking at the figures, we can safely say that we are going about it successfully", says Davide Viancino - Bridgestone Europe South Region’s Director Consumer Products. "Take, for example, our Potenza S001 as OEM on the new Alfa Romeo Giulia. Although, designed in Europe, carefully studying the suspensions of this powerful Italian sedan, it must also meet the needs of the US market. At the same time, the Battlecruise H50, which was developed in the United States for Harley Davidson, is recording great success on European roads too".
And these are not isolated cases. Rather, the issue bears a tremendously important significance for Bridgestone, looking at the large transformation program currently under way and the number of product codes that, are being produced at an unprecedented speed - still according to Viancino, twenty one years with Bridgestone, enough to be considered the company’s historical memory. After the complete make-over of Firestone’s product range (historical American brand purchased back in 1988, a second brand dedicated to the “young at heart”) with new Roadhawk, Firehawk, Vanhawk and Multihawk lines as well as an expansion of the Dayton range with the new transport D800M/D, Bridgestone introduced the new Turanza T001 Evo (an evolution of the famous T001) and is currently working at a further upgrade and expansion of the range, with products destined to become the benchmark in their respective segments. Not to mention, obviously, the launch and progressive expansion of the DriveGuard range, third generation Run-Flat tire currently enjoying great success on the Italian market. And not only because of its performance (try it yourself), but also, and far from being insignificant, because of a rather wide range of models and related price list, comparable to other standard products of equal size and importance.
It all adds up
As it is in the nature of things, all this great amount of work is not an end in itself. In a national market (sell-in) that "at the end of the first half can be defined as substantially stable, recording a slight decrease after a positive first quarter", notes Stefano Parisi, "we are now reaping the benefits of our commitment, based on a comprehensive offer that can hardly be compared to any other. We are present in almost all sectors of the market with tires for passenger cars of all kinds, commercial and industrial vehicles, motorcycles and agricultural machines. But, above all, we are present on the market with an undisputed premium brand such as Bridgestone, a second brand with a great tradition behind it, such as Firestone (which happens to be, among other things, Formula Indy’s exclusive supplier) and two budget brands such as Dayton and Seiberling, sold through ours First Stop and Bridgestone Partner networks. Of course, we are not forgetting the retreading industry where we are present with Bandag, a brand that needs no introductions". A real "multichannel strategy", as Parisi himself defines it, with numerous opportunities for development but in need of a growing number of outlets on the market.
New targeted promotions
No room for complacency, though! Consistently with Henry Ford’s quote which said that "a man who stops advertising to save money, is like a man who stops a clock to save time”, Bridgestone is perfectly conscious of the importance of keeping brand awareness alive. After ceasing sponsorships related to the motorsports world, which contributed so much in the past years to the international reputation of the brand, the group is now engaged in other forms of brand promotion. First and foremost, at the Geneva Motor Show, Paolo Ferrari, President and CEO of Bridgestone EMEA, announced a ten-year partnership with the International Olympic Committee, which sees all Bridgestone EMEA countries of reference involved until 2024. "Our group has undertaken a long-term commitment with the International Olympic Movement with the aim of supporting society as a whole and especially people pursuing their dreams and goals. We believe this to be a very strong message and from my point of view I can say that sports has that universal appeal that we need. This partnership infuses our brand with a high emotional value. ‘Chase Your Dream, No Matter What’ is the motivational campaign aimed at inspiring all to believe in themselves, in pursuing their goals despite possible obstacles along the way”. And for Bridgestone the journey is just as important as the destination. In this context, says Parisi “we have identifies three Ambassadors in Italy: Gianmarco Tamberi, Gregorio Paltrinieri and Valeria Straneo, Olympic athletes able to overcome adversities of all kind to achieve their objectives.
Of course, of a totally different kind is the path identified by Firestone, following its close ties with the music scene since the Thirties. After last year’s positive experiences, Firestone is once again main sponsor of the 2017 Collisioni AgriRock Festival as well as a further 9 of the most important European and Italian festivals, bringing together young people who through the universal language of music share the values of freedom and independence, in common with the legendary US brand.
The course is clear and well-outlined, so nothing else is left but travelling on it, and Bridgestone knows perfectly well how to do it.
Italian flair behind Bridgestone’s success!
At Bridgestone someone will always tell you that the staff at the Castel Romano research centre and the Aprilia proving ground comes from all over the world. And it is precisely so. Nevertheless, a few nationalistic feelings here are quite in order as most of these researchers and engineers come from Italy and are responsible for the development of the Group’s tires.
After all, it's part of the group's tradition. Years ago, in proximity of Caio Cestio’s pyramid, in Rome, there was an office where a small group of researchers studied Firestone tires for their use on European markets. Then, in 1973, someone came up with the idea of opening, a little further away, along the ss148 Pontina, a modern R&D centre to test new products. Shortly after, the Castel Romano plant became a reference point not only for many companies operating in the Country’s Capital, but also for enthusiasts. And when in 1988 Firestone became part of the Bridgestone Group, the Japanese giant realized they had a great investment in their hands. As the years passed, the Castel Romano Centre became an authentic “pole of excellence”, the European Technical Centre, which - together with those found in Tokyo, Akron and Bangkok - plays an increasingly important role in researching materials, tire development, prototype production as well as the most diverse indoor tests. It is not surprising, then, that the 32 hectares on which the Castel Romano centre is located was suddenly viewed as too small, so a few years later, a new and larger test centre was inaugurated in April 2004: the European Proving Ground (EUPG). Here, taking advantage of a particularly favourable climate, it is possible to analyze and evaluate new and innovative technologies and solutions for future Bridgestone tires in realistic conditions and in almost every period of the year.
The 40 million Euro structure, boasts the most modern equipment available to test tires. Tires for passenger cars, commercial vehicles, lorries, buses, agricultural vehicles and motorcycles are tested on a number of state-of-the-art testing tracks. On an area of 144 hectares there are, in fact, 17 different tracks for a total of 8 kilometres, able to recreate virtually all the conditions one could meet on European roads.