Fleet services, the Internet and global competition addressed at BizCon

April 6, 2007

“Future success in selling a fleet won’t be about how we want to sell them. It’s going to be about how they want to buy,” Singh Ahluwalia, president, commercial products for Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire LLC, told tire dealers attending the company’s recent BizCon commercial tire business conference in San Francisco, Calif.

He feels more and more premium fleets are demanding a total tire solution from tire dealers, “from replacement tires to maintenance; mounts to dismounts, roadside services to retreads.”

And as these "leading showcase fleets" outsource, the other fleets will follow and copy, said Ahluwalia.

Another trend the company is following is customers’ Internet usage. Ahluwalia said that the Internet “more than any other technology in history, has leveled the playing field of competition faster than anyone could have ever imagined. And, it’s created a ‘spectacular shift’ in the precision and thinking behind every business model.

“Any fleet, any time; anywhere can dissect the sales offering and selling price of virtually any product sold today -- all with a click of a mouse on a purchasing manager's desktop or laptop.” But, said Ahluwalia, while the Internet applies to tires, it doesn’t to services offered by dealers.

“And it is these services, your services, that give the truck tire dealer and truck stops a huge advantage over any global threat. Products can be manufactured and imported from almost anywhere. But services like mounting and dismounting a tire, emergency breakdown assistance, preventative maintenance, or retreading, can they bid on these from 8,000 miles away? I don’t think so!

“So while the Internet has created enormous pressure for us as far as the acquisition price of everything we make, it has yet to exert significant pressure on the price and earnings of specialized services like those that you offer your fleet customers.”

Another topic of discussion at the conference was low-cost tires from China and elsewhere.

Ahluwalia questioned if the manufacturers of these tires have a specialized total tire solution, or if “these offshore companies will have the stomach to invest hundreds of dollars in your growth, not just theirs?”

He said the company would continue to monitor the offshore companies as it develops future options.