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Yokohama's Cooney discusses opportunities in the truck tire market, new products

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The formula for success in the commercial truck tire business is simple, says John Cooney, Yokohama Tire Corp.'s director of commercial sales. "It's all about providing quality goods and/or services to customers at competitive rates." In the following interview, Cooney discusses opportunities in the truck tire market, Yokohama's new z.environment medium truck tire, the company's OE strategy, and other topics.

In today's truck tire market, what are the opportunities for Yokohama?

Cooney: The opportunities for Yokohama lie in our ability to meet the needs of the trucking industry with better tires, service and support than our competitors. We are responding to the needs of the trucking industry by being extremely efficient in everything we do. Products, people and place in the market: it may sound old hat, but that's what business is all about.

Speaking of products, you are introducing the Z.environment. Is that a new tire-making philosophy?

Cooney: It started in Japan and is marketed there as ZEN. ZEN represents a total approach to tire management that includes every element that affects a commercial tire's life cycle. Driving out cost, increasing efficiency, making the best possible use of every resource is what ZEN stands for.

So the Z.environment is a true tire line?

Cooney: Yes, it's an official tire line that represents the best that Yokohama has to offer in a number of areas, notably in terms of economy.... not just fuel economy and low rolling resistance of the product itself, but efficiencies in the design and the production of the product. These tires are lighter, stronger and faster than anything that we've built before. This product is absolutely new from the bead wires up.

From a product perspective, the Z.environment is good because low rolling resistance is simply good for the environment. Yokohama's low rolling resistance tires improve fuel efficiency by minimizing the energy wasted (as heat) as the tire rolls down the road. We're building products for the future that will use less energy, cost less to operate and provide a longer lifecycle and reduced costs to the trucking company.

How is Yokohama's commercial truck division faring?

Cooney: Yokohama's commercial division is faring very well. We are expanding our product lines, distribution and support teams constantly.

Do you have specific short- and long-term goals?

Cooney: Of course, our goals are to continue the rollout of several new product lines, including the premium Z.environment line. We will also be launching new "application specific" tread designs as well as expanding the number of sizes offered for specialty applications like the super-wide base.

We are also researching ways to manufacture our products more efficiently, using less energy and resources in the process. Our goal is to be a leader in the arena of product development while doing so in the most environmentally friendly way possible.

When will the super-wide base be available?

Cooney: We already produce a line of super-wide base products that are marketed in Japan. However, the sizing and applications are different there. We are in the process of testing products for the U.S. market and we should see them on the road in 2008.

Is Yokohama pursuing any OEM commercial truck fitments?

Cooney: We currently do business with a large number of Japanese OEMs and have agreements in place with a significant number of other global truck OEMs. We continue to negotiate with virtually all truck OEMs to make our product available as a "spec" or option through all manufacturers.

Is Yokohama involved in retreading?

Cooney: Yokohama does operate its own retread process in Japan. We do not currently offer that process outside of Japan. We do have the capability, but our focus in the U.S. is the support of our full-service commercial dealer and fleets they service. For us to enter into that arena or offer our own company-operated retread process would put us in direct competition with those full-service commercial dealers. We have no plans at this time to expand our retread process to the U.S.

Who's the main customer you're trying to reach?

Cooney: Ultimately, the customer we are trying to reach is the trucker. That customer comes in many shapes and sizes from mega fleets to owner operators. We believe the quality products and programs we offer appeal to all of that diverse market.

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