FEELING THE PULSE OF THE MARKET!
Budgets and forecasts
We heard the executives of some of the world’s largest tire manufacturers to get a first impression about the market in 2015, as well as a forecast for 2016
The last days of the year are, traditionally, the period when companies review the past twelve months and start planning for the following ones. And the world of tires is certainly no exception. Therefore, with the help of some directors of tire companies, whom we thank for their precious cooperation, we tried to “feel the pulse” of the Italian tire market. Our respondents based their replies on figures relating to the first nine months of 2015, which represent a good indicator on both the year that is about to end as well as realistic expectations for 2016.
The resulting picture, as you can read from the following statements of the stakeholders, is generally positive - or at least not negative - with the majority of respondents, albeit with the necessary caution, speaking about small signs of recovery that should be consolidated next year. Although prospects for Original Equipment tires are looking rather positive - closely related as they are to the recovery of the automotive market – this will not directly affect those who distribute tires in the domestic market (or any of their dealers), while, on the other hand, the need on the part of motorists to replace their tires is growing rapidly and is especially felt in the high performance segment, traditionally the most profitable. Not to mention, of course, winter tires sales that, inevitably, at the time of our interviews were still largely ongoing, and which, in the worst-case scenario, should be able to confirm 2014 figures.
Many of the world’s premium manufacturers are expected to unveil several new products and promotional initiatives aimed at supporting the market’s recovery in 2016.
Rosario Mastrolia - Country Manager Apollo Vredestein Italia
2015, for Apollo Vredestein Italia, proved to be a rather positive year as far as sales are concerned both from a structural and a product range point of view. Brand awareness has greatly affected our turnover alongside some of our many new initiatives, with many more in the pipeline (TBR, Fleet&Lease, OE). I proudly remember our collaboration with Giugiaro, which began in 1999, as well as our leadership in "All Season" tires where Vredestein offers the widest range on the market. Not to mention our huge range of winter tires that allowed us to seize all the opportunities from this segment in 2015, and we expect even more in 2016. Speaking about our winter products, we were the first to create a Y speed rated tire (up to 300 km / h) and the same speed rating has now also been available for a few months on our all-season Quatrac 5. In both cases, new and interesting market options have opened up for Vredestein.
The group will experience further expansion in 2016. Especially so since our Apollo product range (both summer and winter tires, as well as our all-seasons) is becoming increasingly popular in our country, as motorists are willing to recognize their favorable price / quality ratio (the result of the same technological research that characterizes all Vredestein premium products). Furthermore, our new factory in Hungary, currently under construction, will guarantee Apollo tires a greater production output starting in late 2016.
Moreover, as 2015 draws to an end, Vredestein points at a different perception of the brand within a younger public. This new image will be established through the use of very unusual and highly customized marketing tools available throughout our retail stores, as well as a partnership with DJ Hardwell (twice winner of the world’s best DJ award) and racing driver Carmen Jordà (Team Lotus F1 Test Driver), with a media campaign named #ROCKTHEROAD. Creating a new and younger clientele is, in fact, part of a program that sees the entire Apollo Vredestein group very active on a global scale.
Andy Davies - CEO Bridgestone Europe, South Region
Bridgestone’s South Region figures show, between January and August 2015, a 2% increase mainly due to the sales of summer tires, and the positive trend in new registrations recorded during the last 8 months is creating positive expectations for the winter sell out as well. This positive trend, though, did not just happen by chance. In fact, a number of factors have contributed to making it possible, among which we would like to recall a thorough media campaign which began at the beginning of the year, the launch of our Potenza S-007 hi-performance tire, the revival of our Firestone brand through the Rock in Roma sponsorship, which has made the brand rather social and viral during four months of concerts, not to mention our product range renewal with Multihawk2, Destination HP and Multiseason.
Last January, at the EUPG in Rome, Bridgestone performed the first field test before the press, confirming the launch on the European market of its new VT-Tractor farm tires, designed to help farmers increase productivity while preserving their precious soil at the same time. During the last Autopromotec fair, a new retail network, Bridgestone Partner, specialized in the transport sector, was presented, followed by the first international workshop where hot topics were discussed, such as the new Total Tire Care program and the Dayton truck tire.
Alessandro De Martino - CEO of Continental Italia
The market has repeatedly announced signs of recovery, which we are all expecting, but so far (end of September - ed) have not yet materialized. The market is proving to be rather unstable, fluctuating from month to month, and unpredictable, influenced as it is by seasonal purchasing. Winter usually feeds sales expectations, but it is always a big question mark, as it is always linked to climatic and environmental factors. True, the positive trend in new car registrations, which will partially be equipped with winter tires as OE, combined with the natural seasonal turnover, are creating some positive expectations for year-end figures, all the more so if you consider that winter peak sales were recorded three years ago, making it easy to predict many necessary replacements, not to mention the unhealthy habit of often using winter equipment during the summer, with the consequent rapid wear of the tires.
The summer segment is likewise producing signs of growth, underpinned by higher fuel consumption – meaning more vehicles in circulation. But here, other factors deserve being taken into consideration: the consistent increase of used tires sales, a real scourge of the market and a high risk factor for traffic safety. Fortunately, the steady market demand for premium products shows that safety awareness is still significant compared to purely economic reasons.
Speaking of Continental, we are satisfied with the further growth of our premium brand, which continues to invest in technology and innovation. The recent successful launch of the new Continental SportContact UHP 6 is a clear evidence of that. On the other hand, the weakness of distribution channels and the growing presence on the market of low-cost Asian products are causing some secondary brands to struggle. But where dedicated sales network are in place and an extensive product range is available to the client, our expectations of market penetration are confirmed: this is the case with our quality brand Uniroyal and PneusExpert store network, the largest in Italy.
As far as industrial vehicles, the market has been positively responding, and we were among the beneficiaries of this trend. Alongside our Continental premium brand, which can boast a few new product ranges (Generation 3, made up mainly by EcoPlus and Hybrid) dedicated to specialized use, we have also witnessed the growth of our Semperit brand, revived at the beginning of the year with encouraging results.
The present scenario of economic recovery and the growing attention paid by tire manufacturers to the activities of their distribution networks in terms of service quality and customer care are clear symptoms of the market’s growth potential. In particular, the focus on satisfying customer requirements and needs on the part of both official networks as well as franchising distribution channels confirmed the steady progress of our distribution networks.
Continental is constantly keeping an eye on the market being ahead of it on many occasions: investments in technology and quality have been further increased, as well as the firm’s awareness of any problems pertaining to our distribution channels. Add to this the increasingly massive presence of the premium brand as OE on many vehicles, such as in Europe, where more than one out of three vehicles leave the assembly line mounting Continental tires. All this is the company’s visiting card aimed at creating brand awareness and customer loyalty, precious factors to be considered when having to replace tires.
In order to strengthen its industrial offer, Continental is renewing its Generation 3 range with the brand new Runner. Tailored products aimed at meeting the specific needs of the clients, whether large fleet companies or owner-drivers, are the company’s real strength.
Luca Crepaccioli - General Manager Goodyear Dunlop Southern Europe
2015 is showing moderate signs of recovery, driven by a slight improvement of the Italian economy, which is likely to continue in 2016.
Premium products are proving to be the most important segment of the market, even though the progressive aging of vehicles in circulation has caused a sudden rise in demand for low-cost tires. Furthermore, we are also observing a reduction of imports from Asian countries.
During the coming winter, the market is expected to be in line with 2014, albeit with a potential for further growth. Moreover, both the weather, much in line with last year, as well as a rise in new registrations, especially for vehicles destined to fleet services, should drive the sales of premium products.
Goodyear Dunlop keeps on growing in the premium segment, thanks to a consistent process of innovation. Independent tests, in 2015, have in fact demonstrated that the market appreciates our products achieving the highest ratings among motorists. But we have ambitious plans for 2016 too, with the launch of new products and further investments aimed at guaranteeing a greater opportunity for growth, greater margins and greater efficiency for our specialized dealer.
In order to keep pace with the rising demand for all-season tires, we have just launched the last generation of our Vector 4Seasons, a true reference product for the whole category. We look at all-season tires as an effective response to the needs of an ever-growing number of motorists, and not as an alternative to winter tires.
Brenno Benaglia - Commercial Director of Commercial & Industrial Tyres Marangoni
As far as the industrial sector is concerned, substantial differences have been noticed between the sales of new tires and retreads: if on the one hand the retreads market showed a -9% figure, this was partially offset by the +8% in the sales of new tires. The earth-moving sector is also characterized by an uneven performance between new and retreaded tires, with retread numbers growing in the material handling segment while substantially dropping in the earth-moving segment.
Truck retreads underperformed mainly due to new low-cost Chinese tires, which recently hit the market with prices very similar to retreaded products, and consequently believed to be preferable by that part of the market interested in scoring easy profit margins. A second strong factor is the aggressive pricing performed by some premium manufacturers on behalf of their second or even third product ranges, as a response to the growth of Asian products. I would also like to stigmatize certain actions performed by a number of manufacturers, such as offering bonuses to support the sale of their retreads. These behaviors combine in distorting the logic behind the idea of retreading tires and the only result they achieve is depressing prices.
Furthermore, the great recession in the building industry, one of the largest end-markets for retreaded products, has made things even worse.
We still trust in a recovery of the economy, nevertheless I do not believe in a major turnaround within the next few months: the market is tense due to low commodity prices and the weak recovery of the economy, both domestically and throughout Europe.
Talking about our performance, the diversification strategy of our sales channels allowed us to close the year in Italy with last year’s numbers in the truck segment, while the earth-moving sector is still struggling. Truck retreads managed to consolidate their market share while our presence in the new truck tire segment has increased and this growth appears to be rather consistent.
Jerome Laurent - Commercial Director of Michelin Italia
The market is recovering both in terms of OE as well as replacements. And in this scenario the Michelin group has consolidated its prime position.
The market’s outlook for 2016 is positive. The objective of the Michelin group is to gain a greater market share and consolidate our "leadership" within the country. Investments in research and development have enabled us to launch this year many new and innovative products, with excellent results in terms of sales and with a potential for growth also in 2016.
I am specifically talking about Crossclimate, whose sales forecast for 2015 in Europe is estimated to rise by 30%, and that will undergo a further range expansion next year, as well as the new Pilot Sport 4, which will be marketed from next January, not to mention our new dedicated services for trucks and our new Hypersport tires for motorbikes, along with many other surprises.