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2004 will be 'a year of traction,' says Goodyear

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In a conference call folowing the release of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s fourth quarter 2003 financial results, Robert Keegan, chairman and CEO, said the company has improved its relationship with its dealers. "It simply had to be done, and it was."

The company also is working on improving its private brand tire business by being more selective when it comes to choosing business and scrutinizing global sourcing.

Robert Tieken, executive vice president and chief financial officer, stressed that the company's financial restatements "were not a distraction to our business leaders," and that the company is pleased to have the financial restatements behind it.

Goodyear is focused fully on its turnaround plan and has set in place steps that will prevent similar problems happening in the future, Tieken said. These steps include disciplinary action where necessary, appropriate training for workers, organizational and personnel changes with increased oversight, and simplification and improvements in financial procedures.

The company continues to maintain a strong liquidity position, Tieken added, and with approximately $2 billion in cash and available credit, "Our position remains strong in a going forward basis."

Keegan said there has been very positive market reception to its products, including the new Assurance line. The company is ramping up production to meet demand while it struggles to keep everyone fully inventoried. "It's a nice problem to have," Keegan said.

"Expect more launches and more excitement in our key markets," he added. "Much work remains to be done. We are attacking our goals aggressively."

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