Founded in 1898 in Akron, Ohio, multinational tire manufacturing company Goodyear has been in business for 121 years. Interestingly, the iconic company marks a century of operations in the Philippines.
Setting up shop here just after the end of the World War I, Goodyear quickly established a Southeast Asia distribution center and warehouse. During this period, tires “were shipped from the United States to Manila and sold both locally and to other countries such as China, Japan, the then Dutch Indies and other adjacent countries,” according to a company release.
At its recent dealer convention here where the company recognized longtime partners (including a dealer of 85 years), Goodyear ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) managing director Andy Cooper elucidated Goodyear’s strategy which more keenly targets the SUV and 4×4 markets for growth – subsumed within a vision to expand its network, launch new products, win more OE (original equipment) customers, and “put a lot of money into the ASEAN factories.”
In an exclusive interview with WHEELS.PH, Cooper explained the decision to focus on the segments thus: “We heard earlier on it’s probably the fastest-growing part of the market. It’s challenging to make those tires. They need good technology, and you need to have a lot of experience which we have through our research and development in North America and Europe… It’s a fast-growing segment of the market and it suits us perfectly.”
He admitted, “Frankly, we’ve under-indexed; we’ve underperformed in that area. Our new managing director looked at that market, saw the products we had, saw the opportunity, and saw that it was disconnected. So, we’re going to look to that area for significant growth.”
The Wrangler AT SilentTrac is Goodyear’s latest salvo to appeal to the aforementioned market. Said to follow the heels (and success) of the Wrangler AT/SA, the Wrangler AT SilentTrac is meant for SUVs and pickups needing “off-road durability, long lasting tread life and quiet performance.”
Goodyear upgrades its DuraWall Technology to withstand rugged off-road use even better by “resisting cuts and tears, allowing versatility for drivers to go off-road at a moment’s notice.” Rigid shoulder blocks have also been improved, while the tread pattern has been optimized to deliver outstanding strength and reduced road noise for a quieter ride, while also resulting in excellent mileage.”
In a release, Alex Ng, Goodyear market director for the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and distributor markets, expressed confidence that the line will “fulfill the needs of the 4×4 market, having the best of both worlds with its off-road performance and durability complemented with a comfortable on-road experience. SUV and pick-up truck drivers can leisurely drive on rough roads with Wrangler AT SilentTrac’s increased traction and toughness, and drive home on paved roads with comfort.”
Cooper maintained that despite the emphasis on the SUV market, Goodyear is cognizant of the fact that “the passenger car market is also growing in the Philippines. It’s a great market to be in, and we’ve got a comprehensive range of tires for all the different applications, so we’re certainly not looking to take a step down in any part of the market.”
This is in the face of an influx of new players (particularly tiremakers from China) which are targeting mass-market niche with vastly affordable selections. The buyers in this segment have traditionally been known to be very price-sensitive. “In the value segment of the market, I think it’s true (price sensitivity). With the trade tensions globally, shipments of Chinese tires to North America have been affected severely. Those brands are looking for places to sell their products. A lot of the ASEAN markets have been reducing tariffs, which make it attractive to ship those tires into the Philippines and Malaysia, for example,” observed Cooper, who acknowledged the “intense competition” borne by this surge in low-priced offerings.
“The value segment is a challenging part of the market right now,” he added. “So, it is one of the reasons why we’re looking to leverage the value of our brand. We’ve got technology, we have the higher rim sizes, we’ve got the quality. We’re looking at the most attractive segments and go after those, but we’ve got very competitive products in the mid and value segments.”
Still, Cooper is firm “that the SUV segment is where we got one of the biggest opportunities… For the total market, it’s the best-performing segment. For us, I think we’ve got products that we can really take a great deal of market share with our new technology.”
Meanwhile, Goodyear is continuing to punch its way deeper in the OE market, “We’ve been very big historically in original equipment; we’re winning again in original equipment now,” said the executive. “We’re doing particularly well with brands like Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Honda… there are many brands in this part of the world where we’re getting a lot of momentum, where we’re getting double-digit growth year after year in that segment, and we’re actually putting terrific investments into our factories now to keep up with the demands we’ve got from OE companies.”
As the Goodyear marks a century in the Philippines, it seems the company still knows exactly where it’s headed and how to get there.