Bridgestone Gears Up for a Strong 2022
Dealers Will Enjoy New Products, More Robust Supply
Dealers can expect new tires and more consistent supply from Bridgestone Americas Inc. in 2022, Bridgestone officials announced during the company's all-digital consumer and commercial tire meeting on Nov. 16.
"As you all know, 2021 has been an extremely challenging year for product supply and it’s impacting virtually all tire segments,” said Scott Damon, Bridgestone Americas’ chief operating officer.
“The industry, as a whole, is still grappling with the impact of plant shutdowns” in early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was the largest shutdown in our company’s history and the same can be said for many of our competitors.”
Demand has since outpaced inventory, he said. “Production is at - or above - 2019 levels.” But the company “can’t recruit and train employees fast enough to run our plants at capacity all of the time.”
This factor - plus the shipping crisis - has created a challenging situation, not just for Bridgestone, but for companies across the industry.
“While supply will remain tight for the foreseeable future, relief is coming. Our shipments are up 15% versus last year” in consumer replacement.
“We’re also benefiting from onsite warehouse expansions at our Wilson City, N.C.; Aiken, S.C.; and Joliette, Quebec, passenger tire plants. And we’re completing a renovation at Wilson that will convert four million units of low-diameter tires into high-diameter tires.”
On the medium truck tire side, Bridgestone is “making conscious decisions to make sure our supply supports replacement first. We are applying our global levers to make sure you get the TBR tires you need.”
Damon said Bridgestone Americas - which represents more than 40% of Bridgestone’s global TBR sales - sources “a high number of TBR tires from our plants in Thailand, Brazil and Japan. Next year, we’ll increase our TBR supply by an incremental 600,000 units - half of which will be imported.
“We also have plenty of tread rubber available. We’ve made significant investments in Bandag.”
The commercial tire business “bounced back quickly from the (2020) shutdown,” added Chris Ripani, president of commercial tire sales, Bridgestone Americas.
“Pent-up demand has made trucking robust. Class 8 utilization is near 90%. Ton miles are up 4.7%. We expect the industry to come in 15% to 17% above 2020. For retreading, we expect to see the industry come in around 10% up versus 2020.”
Bridgestone recently renewed contracts with several key commercial tire accounts, including Penske, Waste Management, FedEx and others and signed new fleets during 2021.
“To deliver on that growth, we need to have our service network engaged,” said Ripani. “You are the most critical factor in that strategy.”
In the OTR tire segment, “we’ve been working proactively to make sure we can support the strong replacement market,” said Rob Seibert, president of OTR. “We’ve realigned our regions to streamline conversations and make faster decisions. We have seen up to 7% share of growth in certain categories.”
Bridgestone’s OTR tire dealers should expect to see “continued inventory improvement each month. We will meet increased product demand thanks to new capacity in both the United States and southeast Asia.”
Bridgestone’s Firestone Ag division “has had strong results” in 2021, said Tony Orlando, the unit’s president. Firestone Ag continues to ramp up production and recently secured a long-term supply agreement with John Deere.
“We’re continuing to gain momentum in a constrained environment.”
Paolo Ferrari, president and CEO of Bridgestone Americas, discussed macro-economic dynamics that will influence the company’s future direction.
“Vehicle miles will continue to go up - both consumer and commercial,” he said. “Another important point is that electrification is happening. Electrification changes the way the vehicle is serviced and tires will continue to be a critical component. It’s good for tires and good for tire technology.
“We all know we have a broader trend going on and it’s the trend and urgency around sustainability. We believe that what’s good for society is good for business. We’re not just creating and producing products. We’re creating value.”
Ferrari also noted that the original equipment sales channel “is still very important” to Bridgestone.
“In the U.S., we have fantastic fitments with OEMS - Ford, Stellantis and General Motors. And we have moved early in the electric vehicle (EV) space. We will be OE on many EVs that come to market.”
Bridgestone Americas plans to launch a number of new tires in 2022. The Bridgestone Weather Peak is the company’s next-generation all-weather product and will be available in 56 sizes.
The Bridgestone DriveGuard Plus “combines touring tire technology” with the company’s run-flat technology, according to Jeff Cook, executive director of marketing and product portfolio. It will be available in 27 sizes.
And the company is broadening its Firestone range with the new Firehawk AS V2 all-season tire, which “draws its inspiration from current Indy Car tire patterns.”
New commercial products will include the Bridgestone R192E, a tire for electric buses; the Bridgestone M771 Ecopia, an open shoulder drive tire; two Firestone brand products; and two Bandag tread rubber products, including the Bandag B713, which is SmartWay-approved.