SAN FRANCISCO—Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. executives touted the company's gains in truck tire market share over the past year and revealed several new products and programs for 1997 during its Bizcon II commercial tire dealer meeting April 7 in San Francisco. BFS's share of the U.S. truck tire aftermarket grew 8 percent in 1996 from the year before and was up 12 percent in OE tires, Singh Ahluwalia, vice president of truck tire sales, told dealers.
Gains over the past four years have been equally impressive, said John Lampe, president of Bridgestone/Firestone Sales Co. Since 1992, BFS's truck tire replacement market share has risen 35 percent, while that of OE tires has grown by 33 percent.
But Mr. Ahluwalia expects a challenging 1997.
With BFS predicting a slight downturn in aftermarket truck tire shipments in 1997, the company will be faced with hiking market share in a flat year—``a year in which oversupply will put tremendous pressures on pricing,'' he said.
Mr. Ahluwalia noted that a few makers began cutting prices in 1996, some by significant amounts. Most of these reductions occurred at the second tier level, but he thinks this trend will spread to top tier tires this year.
In 1997, BFS will work to improve its non-national fleet mix for Bridgestone brand tires, Mr. Ahluwalia said. After targeting national fleets in 1996, the firm will focus on being competitive in price for small- and medium-size fleets that are not necessarily Bridgestone national fleet customers.
``Successfully addressing these fleets with the Bridgestone brand will have a direct positive impact on your profitability and the profitability of the... brand,'' he said.
BFS executives also introduced several tires and unveiled a new five-position global naming system for the Firestone commercial line.
The first position in the naming system will be an ``F'' for the Firestone brand, said Vickie Riggin, product manager. The second position can be an ``S'' for steer/all position applications, a ``D'' for drive/lug or a ``T'' for trailer/free rolling.
The third, fourth and fifth positions will be a three-digit number. The range 400-599 will be used for highway rib tires, 600-699 for highway lug tires and 800-899 for on/off-highway tires.
The only existing tire to adopt the new system is the Firestone T663 drive tire, which will become the FD663.
In moves to beef up the Firestone brand, BFS will launch several new tires this summer, Ms. Riggin said. They include:
The FS507 steer/all-position highway rib tire, available in two 90-series sizes, featuring a four-rib design, in 14- and 16-ply ratings, and two, five-rib, low-profile versions—one with a 22.5-inch rim diameter in 14- and 16-ply ratings and a 24.5-inch size in 14 ply. The FS507 will replace the T589 as the standard steer tire in the Firestone lineup, Ms. Riggin said.
The FT455 trailer tire, for over-the-highway use and very light steer axle applications. The FT455 has a five-rib design and will come in four, 14-ply sizes. It will replace the T545 as Firestone's standard position trailer tire.
The FS590 plus steer/all-position highway tire, which will be positioned to compete primarily with Goodyear products and premium tires from second tier manufacturers, Ms. Riggin said. The FS590 plus will be designed with five ribs as well as equalizer ribs for long life and even wear.
The company also unveiled the final size to the T819 all-position truck tire for on- and off-highway applications—315/80R22.5 20 ply.
In the Bridgestone line, Gary Clark, manager of Bridgestone products, said the company will introduce a new steer/drive tire, the R270, later this year.
Designed for ride comfort, the tire will offer reduced noise and low vibration, while delivering good wet traction. The tire is constructed to resist irregular wear and has lower rolling resistance than lug tires, Mr. Clark said.
With its ability to serve as a steer and drive tire, the R270 will help reduce a fleet's inventory. It will be offered in sizes 295/75R22.5 and 285/75R24.5, both 14 ply.