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Goodyear's Keegan: Dramatic change is needed

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Bob Keegan, president of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., is preparing independent tire dealers for a changing marketplace.

"I think... one word defines this conference for us. And that will be change," said Keegan at the Goodyear Dealer Meeting in Las Vegas, Nev., yesterday. "And the changes that I think you’ll be hearing and talking about are well beyond modest, incremental changes."

John Polhemus, president of Goodyear's North American Tire operations, said domestic shipments are down by 6 million units through the first nine months of this year -- five million of that coming on the consumer side, one million coming on the commercial side.

"If you look at the projections for next year, it’s going to be a flat market," he said. "That’s the best that we can hope for.”

"Obviously, we’re in an economic slowdown," said Keegan.

Goodyear puts a lot of emphasis on understanding the end user in its future plans for growth. "If I’ve added anything to Goodyear in the last year, I think it’s around real focus on end users," said Keegan. "We recognize that our job is to sell product through you. It’s not just to sell product in, it’s to sell product through....

"We might have in the past been too oriented towards sell-in. Sell-in’s important. You can’t sell through if you don’t sell in. But for me, and I think for us now, we’re really focused on knowing everything we possibly can about the end user."

Goodyear is not happy with the speed at which it brings new products to market. "We have to find a way and will find a way and are finding ways to increase the speed of what we do," said Keegan. "Some of that’s organizational. There are some controversial things that are going on within the company right now that you’ll hear more about over time.

"But those changes are absolutely necessary to get us the speed that we want to take the R&D capability that we possess and to drive products that really make the market a vibrant market that helps your businesses. And I think that’s important for us to recognize. We accept that."

Goodyear's dealer channel makes up close to 50% of its business, according to Polhemus.

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