The year 2000—the first of the new millennium in many people's eyes—was anything but peaceful in the North American tire industry.
Yet, despite ongoing consolidation, weak financial performances of many tire companies, government scrutiny of the industry and the traumatic events that followed Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.'s recall of 6.5 million P-metric light truck tires, there are many reasons to be thankful.
The Tire Association of North America, for example, held its first popular election of officers, returning further control of the dealer organization to its members. TANA also revived its government relations effort just in time to give dealers a much-needed voice in Washington during the tire recall hysteria.
Fellow dealers learned of Ross Kogel's work on behalf of Detroit's homeless and with the city's Ecumenical Theological Seminary as this year's recipient of the Tire Business Tire Dealer Humanitarian Award.
Tires, viewed by many as a commodity only a few months ago, now have higher top-of-mind awareness as a result of the avalanche of news stories following the Firestone recall.
The recall also brought dealers new importance as tire experts and raised public awareness of the value of professional tire service.
Even beleaguered Bridgestone/Firestone has reason to be thankful. While it reels from the fallout of its massive recall, the company's independent tire dealers, for the most part, have remained staunchly loyal. Much the same can be said for dealers selling tires made by Goodyear, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and Continental General Tire Inc., whose products also are facing government scrutiny and attacks from plaintiffs' attorneys.
Tire makers brought their fill rates under control, solving a problem that had many dealers struggling to find the right tires to meet customer demand.
An industry strike was averted and tire shipments, which set records a year ago, again are at or near those levels.
Independent tire dealers gained more marketing and buying options from new programs introduced by American Car Care Centers, Zurcher Tire Group, Tire Centers L.L.C., Heafner Tire Group, Big O Tires, Tires Plus and others.
Detroit's dream of broad-market, spare-less automobiles moved closer to reality, as arch rivals Goodyear and Michelin joined forces to create a single industry standard for run-flat tires.
More automation of the tire manufacturing process became a reality with the debut of Pirelli S.p.A.'s MIRS (Modular Integrated Roboticized System) plant.
As dealers close the books on 2000, it might have seemed that the year's problems overshadowed the good things that happened.
But many positive events did occur during 2000, and we expect more of the same in 2001.
Here's wishing you much success in the new year—and thanks for reading Tire Business.