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Goodyear Dealer Conference, Day One: 2004 represents more than just a new tire

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Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. rolled out its new Assurance family of all-season tires at its 2004 Dealer Conference in Kissimmee, Fla., today.

But the message from Goodyear officials, including Jon Rich, president of North American Tire operations, carried beyond the new flagship of the company's broad-line passenger tire offerings.

Rich said the company will continue to reduce costs in 2004 with the help of the Six Sigma program now in place. In the last year, Six Sigma has saved the company "tens of millions of dollars."

"This year we'll add lean manufacturing to our Six Sigma efforts."

Rich announced two major initiatives to the attendees.

* OTIFNE (for On Time, In Full, No Errors) delivery. The new fill-rate program will include a ship-to promise date. "(Traditionally) fill rates are measured by what you ship out vs. orders," said Rich. "Customers don't care about that."

* A continued focus on increasing manufacturing efficiencies. "For us to compete, we're going to have to leverage our global assets," he said.

Leveraging its own global production -- and taking advantage of low-cost manufacturing from other sources -- will keep Goodyear in the private brand game as well. "We're in the private brand market to stay."

Goodyear will increase marketing and ad spending by 40% in 2004 (the new Assurance tire program is backed by a $50 million-plus ad campaign on its own).

(For more on the Assurance tire line introduction, check out the Feb. 4 story in our "Breaking News" section: "Goodyear replaces Aquatred with Assurance all-season tire.")

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