Interview with the Federpneus president
Changing market scenarios, the role of the tire dealer and the problems still plaguing the industry: we spoke about it with Giancarlo Veronesi, head of the association of tire retailers.
Giancarlo Veronesi, owner of Ferrara's Pneusestense, held the position of vice-president of the association of tire retailers for several years; after the death of President Guido Schiavon, last March, the board of directors appointed Veronesi as his successor. We asked him a few questions to understand what to expect for the next few years and the different challenges facing tire dealers.
President Veronesi, as the new Head of Federpneus you are called upon to take over from Giulio Schiavon the former President.
An exceptional person, whom I highly esteemed and appreciated, sharing a common vision for the future of our sector. We all owe Guido many important achievements over the last few years: following one of his intuitions, in fact, and with the help of other subjects, the seasonal tire replacement, as we know it today in Italy, came into existence. We also owe him a clear political strategy for the association, with training and business independence as its pillars.
How can the association continue along the same path?
The association’s main mission is, as always, to provide the member companies with all the technical and digital tools necessary to keep up with the times. And in 2018, this means being able to face new market scenarios as well as our changing working environment on multiple levels. In general, what we are observing is how the retailer's primary business is changing, shifting the focus also on other types of services, for example tire specialists are increasingly offering also light mechanical work. In addition, the relentless development of on-board IT technologies will likewise change the way services are performed, just think of TPMS, control units and ADAS: increasingly sophisticated and interconnected systems which require specific and highly skilled training. Overall, this diversification will help many companies in increasing their business volumes, but we must never neglect or lose sight of what our core business is: tire resale.
From your point of observation, what are the dynamics currently shaping the market?
As far as industrial vehicles are concerned, the biggest news is the recent introduction of provisional duties on Chinese-made tires by the European Commission. An important decision, which we believe necessary, that has not as yet yielded the desired results given the previous stocks, but which, I believe, will characterize the market starting from this coming autumn, especially if these duties will be confirmed. On the other hand, the current trend in the automotive sector is that of a strong technological development of the tire itself, which means having to keep up to date with all the innovations and be able to communicate them effectively to the end users, preserving the inherent value of our services.
The consistent growth of online sales channels seems to pose quite a threat.
It is certainly a fast-growing phenomenon, and as such we must pay close attention to it if we want to be able to take advantage of it rather than having to deal with it. Clearly, aggressive web-based commercial policies are a problem, which could end up reducing the work of the tire dealer to that of menial labour, limited to mounting the tires received from the customer. However, I must point out that the Internet belongs to everyone, and even traditional retailers can find opportunities and advantages, if we work to identify and communicate them. Furthermore, we still believe that the greatest form of protection for the specialist retailer lies in his professional approach: this is why we insist on the vital role proper training plays in building reputation and increasing the distinctive value of the business. No website can substitute an experienced, qualified and professional tire dealer, and most car owners know this perfectly well.
Federpneus is a member of the Observatory, what is the current status of illegal tire flows and ELTs in Italy?
Well, for one we are very proud to have contributed to the creation of Cambio Pulito, the first whistle-blowing platform in Italy on illegal practices in the tire business; the reports collected have been sent to the police, who are engaged in preliminary inspections. However, it is a long process, meanwhile the illegal influx of tires in Italy continues to generate huge problems as far as collecting ELTs is concerned. For the past two years, in fact, we have been experiencing a very critical situation. I would like to point out that the creation of the ELT collection consortia, in 2011, was crucial in legally tackling a problem that seemed to lack any real solution. To date, however, due to illegal practices, the system is still struggling to fully cope with the issue, and for this we are asking for an open and frank discussion with the institutions to ask for a review of the current system, in addition to adopting new instruments to ensure legal compliance throughout the supply chain. We really have no choice: as things stand, tire specialists are already heavily burdened, hence, it is no longer tolerable that they also runs the risk of being sanctioned simply because those in charge are unable to collect the ELTs.
No shortage of issues to be dealt with in the future then.
As an association, perhaps more than in the past, we have a lot of work ahead of us. But I think Henry Ford was right when he said that "coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success”.