Full speed ahead

April 21, 2010

The last 12 months have been eventful for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s retread business. The company signed some big-name retreaders — Texarkana, Texas-based Heintschel Tire & Service Inc. and Greensboro, N.C.-based Piedmont Truck Tires Inc.  —  and sold its Wingfoot OTR Retread Business to Purcell Tire & Rubber Co. (The Purcell transaction included two plants, one in North Carolina and one in Minnesota, both of which were shut down by Purcell Tire, which  transferred production to its home plant in Potosi, Mo.)

Goodyear, which enjoys 28% of the U.S. truck tire retread market, according to Modern Tire Dealer research, also ramped up its fleetHQ program and introduced tread rubber for some of its new Fuel Max truck tires.

In this interview, Joe Copeland, vice president of Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems, discusses Goodyear’s retread activities and other topics.

Last year, he says, was a “great one for the Goodyear network.”

CTD: Goodyear made a major move in 2009 when it sold its Wingfoot OTR tire retread business to Purcell Tire & Rubber Co. What was behind your decision to exit OTR tire retreading?

Copeland: We decided to focus our attention on offering the best line-up of truck products that we can.

[PAGEBREAK]CTD: There appears to be massive realignments taking place in the retread industry. How do these shifts/changes affect your business? Are we seeing another “shake-out” in the retread market?

Copeland: We do not comment on the business operations or business decisions of our competitors.

We are proud of the stability in our servicing network and we think our network of dealers/retreaders does an excellent job for their customers.

Our focus is on offering real solutions to fleets and other end users.

CTD: Eco-friendly, energy-efficient truck tires are very popular right now. Is the market ready for environmentally friendly, low rolling resistance retreads? What is Goodyear developing on this front?

Copeland: The trucking industry is ready for low rolling resistance (retread) products because these products can help save fuel. Goodyear led the industry with the introduction of the Fuel Max line of commercial truck tires in 2006, offering improved economy for fleets. This year, we’re bringing in new Goodyear Fuel Max tires — the G399 LHS Fuel Max, the G305AT LHD Fuel Max and the G316 LHT DuraSeal with Fuel Max — all qualifying as EPA SmartWay-verified products. We offer the matching retreads to go with them with the G316 Fuel Max and G305 Fuel Max in Unicircle and precure.

[PAGEBREAK]CTD: How long do you think it will take to get back to where the retread market was four or five years ago?

Copeland: For more than a year, the transportation industry has been negatively affected by the economy. While we wish conditions had been different, we are confident knowing that our commercial business is built on more than product transactions.

We all agree that our industry is about more than truck tires. It’s about providing service in various conditions, economic or otherwise.

When fleets look at their businesses, they look at more than tires. In 2008, we introduced fleetHQ, (which is) designed to deliver business solutions to fleets and dealers. Under that umbrella, we have built the capability of our commercial dealers to provide nationwide pricing and service for their local customers.

We also opened the fleetHQ Solutions Center, we launched new tires and retreads, and we added new services. We ramped up our promotion of fleetHQ to the industry and fleets responded.     

The results speak for themselves: a 72% increase in enrolled fleets, new tire sales through fleetHQ up by 33%, retreaded tire sales up by nearly 200%, and service revenue up nearly 50%.    ■