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The group based in Akron, Ohio, is investing in training and IT equipment for its sales staff, and in added value services for the fleet market. Its target is firms with larger fleets, a segment in which penetration has been doubled by leveraging cost containment

Mino De Rigo

A TRUCK SEGMENT that is deep in the red and a continuing economic crisis in the road transport world have not been enough to stop investments by Goodyear, which continues to have a clear repositioning strategy albeit with reassessed focus and range. A programme obliged to feed on substantial continuity that - as was clearly seen by the Akron-based company’s participation in the recent IAA commercial vehicles exhibition in Hannover - vents its technological capacity in the prospect of further reducing the interval between one product generation and the next, changeovers undoubtedly accelerated by the introduction of the EU label.
Luca Molgora, manager of the Truck Division at Goodyear Dunlop Italia, said: “We are making a huge effort on two fronts: we are engaged in launching products the parameters of which – from wet and dry grip to mileage to retreading  -  are at least in line with what is being offered for the same tyres by our competitors; on the other front, we want to be the leader for lowest rolling resistance. It will take time for buyers to absorb the concept, but there can be no doubt that efficiency will become a decisive factor in the same way that it has for household appliances”.

Less consumption with “A” grading
This is why the double “A” is the target, grading that was claimed by the concept in pride of place at the German exhibition (in the 385/55R22.5 size), “which was the prototype for the new series. The renewal of the range aims at maximum values and this is the direction that development will take over the next five years”. However, looking at the self-certification for Goodyear tyres already on the market, two sizes of LHT tyres for trailers are accredited with class “A” for rolling resistance (for wet grip the grading is “C”), and most of the sizes of the most recent Marathon LHS II+ for steering axles and the regional RHT II for trailers boast a double “B”. “Current products in the Marathon line with the ‘+’ suffix” – Molgora continued – “were introduced in 2001 and the entire range with FuelMax technology is only two years old, which demonstrates focus that already puts us at the top of the segment for performance. Credit can be taken by the system that combines this construction technique with the special tread geometry, the secret of which lies in the flexomatic sipes on the central ribs and the Silefex compound with a high level of silica”.
By the start of 2014 Goodyear intends to renew both the regional and long haul ranges, which represent about 85% of the demand.

Operating costs under the magnifier
There is no doubt that we are now experiencing obvious polarization: on the one hand, customers who remain on the edge by more or less living from day to day and using budget products and retreads; on the other hand, firms that do not make price a key parameter when choosing, but decide on the basis of reduced operating costs linked to tyre mileage and fuel consumption. By being able to count on an offer that is in line with our competitor Michelin, which is still the leader for fleets, we aim to prevail”. By taking advantage of a proposal linked to TCO savings that distinguish the renewed Marathon range, together with an array of suitably enriched services. Particularly thanks to retreading its products, which only recently could count on another German factory for hot retreading. “The message” – explained the Goodyear Dunlop manager – “is simple and direct: buy from us and you will have a new or retreaded tyre that gives the same yield as products by the best competitors, but you will spend 10% less, which for a fleet of about a hundred vehicles means €4-5,000 a year; and thanks to reduced rolling resistance, you can save even more. Compared to tyres in the mid-range, the reduction in fuel is between €20,000 and €30,000 every year”.

Staff training and services for fleets
This explains Goodyear’s focus on the local market that is centred on strengthening the sales force and expanding value added services associated with new technologies. “It is” –Molgora emphasized – “one of the two strategic levers that, together with products, give substance to our actions in the field. We are counting a lot on sales staff and we invest considerable amounts in training so that we can be certain that they key aspects of our concept are fully explained to customers. Usually, the larger fleets are able to make correct and immediate assessments, but some of the less organized ones need to know what lies behind the evaluation of operating costs; the remainder is made up of less interesting firms that use tyres of lower value”.
The constant renewal of product technology means considerable investment; this is true also for the rest of Europe, where the negative economic situation has imposed a reduction in costs that are unproductive and, in any case, not strategic. The available resources that, in Italy, are put into sales forces and services for trucks are needed to feed actions in the field.

A still strategic Italian market
With regard to the other side of investment linked to added value services, Goodyear is working on strengthening the ServiceLine,  the 24-hour roadside assistance in Europe, and on expanding the fleet management system. “The system uses web interaction and on customer authorization it enables us to take charge of changing fleet tyres and providing a detailed report of mileage (that can also be compared with a competitor’s product), which helps fleet managers to optimize their costs and consumption”. The strategy designed for the fleet market has already had an effect, if it is true that in the space of a year Goodyear has doubled its penetration of the segment of firms with more than 100 trucks. “They are the most important fleets” – confirmed the manager of the truck division  – “and there are just under 400 in Italy. We have gone from 50 customers in 2011 to almost double the number. Of course, looking at the business as a whole, we have felt the market’s problems and our performance largely reflects the general trend. Which has obviously influenced the mix of products in the portfolio given the better performance of Sava and Fulda products in the budget segment compared to Goodyear and Dunlop premiums”.

• At IAA in Hannover AMT debuts on heavy vehicles
Creating the biggest stir among the new products presented by Goodyear at the latest edition of IAA in Hannover, was the first concept with the double “A” grading for trucks, which should be followed by a new product line. But many were more interested in the debut of Air Maintenance Technology (AMT) on heavy vehicles and its apparently imminent appearance on the market. The system has a peristaltic pump that restores correct tyre pressure while on the move. Basically, a simple value and a tube between the rim and the tyre adds or removes air as required while it is rolling. The automatic regulation of operating pressure eliminates the risk of deflation, which not only affects tyre wear and its integrity for future retreading, but also fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. At only half a bar below the prescribed pressure, consumption is increased by 1%; for annual distances of 150,000 km and consumption of 35 litres per 100 km it comes to about €735 at current diesel prices. Original equipment still does not envisage AMT, but it is probable that it will soon be mounted on changeovers. Another Goodyear debut was the new Marathon Coach specifically for all coach axles, with an asymmetrical tread pattern and M+S marking. Lastly, it announced the discovery that using soya seed oil in compounds can extend tread life by 10% and reduce the use of substances now derived from petroleum.

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