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Goodyear's Rich Kramer: Tire Dealers 'Keep the World Moving'

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Goodyear Rich Kramer

Goodyear's Rich Kramer provided the closing remarks for the tire company's first virtual dealer conference, held Dec. 7-10.

Tire dealers in need of a pep talk and a reminder of all they’ve encountered and adjusted to in 2020 need to look no further than Rich Kramer’s remarks that capped off the virtual conference hosted by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

Kramer, the tiremaker’s chairman, CEO and president, said tire dealers showed the essential role they play in the economy.

“You kept your stores open. You kept delivering tires. You kept fleets on the road. You made it possible for people, food, medicine and critical supplies to get where they needed to be most.

“We’ve always known that each of you is essential to keep the world moving. Well, now everybody else knows, as well. Millions of people counted on you and you came through just as you always do.”

And all of this happened while the economy faltered. But Kramer said he sees a speedy recovery in the nation’s future.

He highlighted some of the economic challenges of 2009, as America and the world fell into the Great Recession, and showed how closely they mirror the conditions of 2020: severe job losses and rising unemployment rates; plunging new car sales; and slumping consumer confidence.

“The outlook was dire, the prognosis was worse and we worried that life was never going to be the same,” Kramer said. “But we came through it.”

The economy bounced back and recorded 128 straight months of expansion, and the indicators of unemployment, new car sales and consumer confidence all rebounded.

“Today we find ourselves in a similar situation, and although it may be hard to visualize now, things in fact will get better just as they did in 2009. We saw the beginnings of that in the third quarter and while we still have a ways to go, it’s clear better days are ahead as we overcome this virus.

“I also believe the rebound will be different than in 2009 in a critical way — everything will happen faster,” Kramer said.

He reminded dealers of how quickly they adapted and adopted new technologies and offered new services to their customers.

“The changes in behavior and expectations driven by technology have taken root and will continue long after the pandemic is over. In short, there’s no going back. If you picture the inflection point as the apex of a hill, we’re over the top, on the other side and picking up speed.”

Kramer boiled down the future into a formula: Redefining success + the value of ‘and’ = Partnership with Goodyear

Redefining success: Tire dealers shouldn’t define success as returning to the way things were before the COVID-19 pandemic, Kramer said.

“You had to adapt to new technology. You had to rethink your offerings. You had to deliver on what your customers expected whether they’re consumers or commercial fleets. And you did it. I’m sure that in a matter of weeks you changed your operation in ways that ordinarily would have taken you months or even years.

“You did these things fast and you did them well, and you’ll keep doing them in the years ahead. You’ve redefined normal for your customers and for your own operation. It’s impossible and frankly unexciting to imagine going back to the way things were.”

Value of ‘and’: To keep moving forward, business owners have to manage the daily operation, but also plan for the future. That includes keeping an eye on the transformation in the auto industry. The investment in electric vehicles and hybrid technologies hasn’t slowed, but is increasing, Kramer said, citing a combined $76 billion in investments announced by General Motors, Ford and Volkswagen. Plus, there are new companies bringing vehicles to the road in 2021.

“Since August of this year, Tesla’s market valuation has exceeded the value of the entire European auto industry. Now that’s not a trend - that's reality.”

And it all spells opportunity new tire sales and new service opportunities, Kramer said. “So run your business for today, but manage it for tomorrow. The two disciplines aren’t mutually exclusive.”

Partnership with Goodyear: Kramer said Goodyear has “already taken the lead on preparing for the coming of electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, connectives vehicles, fleets. We’re redefining success based not on what our business looked like in the past, but the ways we can lead in the future.”

But he said Goodyear also has what tire dealers need to succeed today, “whether it's great products, innovative marketing and sales tools, or fleet management services, tire maintenance programs and total mobility solutions.”

A few of Kramer’s highlights:

  • Goodyear’s intelligent tire development has recorded five million miles on the road.
  • There are partnerships with both named and unnamed electric vehicle and autonomous vehicle providers.
  • Andgo, a digital subscription platform for consumer fleets that offers predictive service has nearly 1,500 vehicles on its platform.
  • Goodyear invested in a driving simulator to help test tire performance “in a virtual but realistic environment.”
  • Continued investments in manufacturing facilities and “other supportive technologies” to improve service and reduce costs.

Kramer said “these elements will serve as the fuel that keep us driving forward and define future levels of success. Choosing the right business partner has always been important, but perhaps never as important that it is today. We’re leading aggressively and want you there with us to win together now and in the future.”

For a recap of the Goodyear dealer conference, check out MTD's additional coverage:


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