Bridgestone Embraces Future Mobility 'Turning Point'
Gabriel Asbun succinctly articulated Bridgestone Americas Inc.’s long-term strategy during the company’s all-digital 2020 Consumer Tire Business Meeting, which was held on Nov. 18.
“Our number one priority is to continue to create a stronger tire business that will start with delivering the right mix of products to help meet the needs of your customers today, while at the same time investing in tire-centric and mobility solutions for tomorrow,” said Asbun, who is president of the company’s Americas Tire Group.
“We all know that tires are a critical enabler of mobility. Now consider what happens when you monitor and manage that tire across its full lifecycle. You are able to maximize tire performance to deliver even more value.”
New, mobility-based initiatives for Bridgestone could include the development of what Asbun called a “subscription-based model,” in which consumers would pay a monthly fee for tire rotations, roadside assistance and other services.
Investing in mobility solutions “will ultimately make our core products better and better,” while creating more opportunities for Bridgestone dealers, he added.
'Creating and selling value'
Paolo Ferrari, president, CEO and COO of Bridgestone Americas, echoed Asbun’s remarks.
“It’s about creating and selling value and thinking more about a subscription-based model,” he said. “We need to participate in the network of platforms that (comprise) the new mobility ecosystem.”
The COVID-19 pandemic “has shown us that everybody is more ready” to embrace new mobility solutions, according to Ferrari.
“We need to be agile. Multiple, concurrent and drastic changes will continue to occur. We also need to take advantage of the massive data that is being collected - tire data and connected vehicle data. It’s a world of digital platforms.
“We can’t do it all,” he told dealers. “You can’t do it all. We have to co-create. We need to continue to pivot. We need to participate in the network of platforms that (make up) the new mobility ecosystem.”
‘At the intersection’
“The world around us is at a turning point,” said Riccardo Cichi, Bridgestone’s president and chief sales officer, North America. “We are at the intersection of multiple, macro-level changes happening concurrently, including changes in auto technology, regulations and society.
“The amount of change can feel overwhelming at times, but with it comes great opportunities to innovate, evolve and create a (better) future for all. The ‘real world’ and digital technologies are converging.”
Shifting purchase behaviors, including the preference for online shopping, coupled with rapidly developing digital technologies will generate more opportunities “for our industry to embrace innovation and for you to capture new business,” Cichi told dealers.
“Online commerce has experienced the equivalent of four to six years of growth since March,” he said. “This trend has continued for consumer tire sales, too,” with some brick-and-mortar tire retailers seeing more than 15% of their revenue coming from online tire sales, he added.
Cichi also cited the growth of last-mile delivery fleets as another opportunity for dealers. “The last mile segment is outpacing the overall market,” he said.
Nearly 80 new fitments
Dealers also should keep an eye on trends at the original equipment vehicle level, said Shannon Quinn, president, consumer OE, North America.
Large rim diameter tires will comprise more than 70% of the U.S. OE market by 2025. “This will be fueled by growth in the premium segment and the continued shift to light trucks and SUVs, which are projected to be 78% of the market” some five years from now.
Quinn said that Bridgestone will bring 78 new OE fitments to vehicles like the Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Highlander, the Ford Escape and Ford Ranger, the Chevy Silverado and others.
“We have started to see a rebound” in new vehicle production “and are expecting the year to end 15% below 2019, with more than 14 million cars being sold. And we will continue to see this rebound through 2021 and 2022, with projections of more than 16 million vehicles being sold.”
New Potenzas (and an Alenza)
Addressing the replacement channel, Bridgestone officials announced that the company is refreshing its Potenza line with the introduction of two new products - the Potenza Sport and the Potenza RE980AS+ - during 2021.
Available for purchase during the first half of the year, the Potenza Sport is “an ultra-high performance summer champion,” said Jeff Cook, executive director, product strategy and portfolio management, Americas Tire Group. The tire will launch in 65 sizes, covering 81% of sports cars and sedans.
The Potenza RE980AS+ builds upon the success of its predecessor, the Potenza RE980AS, by offering enhanced ride comfort, improved snow performance and better treadwear. It will be available during the first half of 2021 in 53 sizes for 85% market coverage.
Bridgestone also unveiled the latest addition to its Alenza line, the Alenza AS Ultra, which will be available in 49 sizes during the second half of 2021. Cook called it the “flagship premium highway option for drivers who are looking for a luxury driving experience from their SUV, CUV and pickup.”