AKRON (Dec. 13, 2001)—The year 2001 may have been one of the most tumultous in the tire industry's 113-year history, but it also produced some of the industry's finest moments as well.
Despite suffering declining sales and lower (in some cases no) profits, the industry's largest companies rose to the occasion following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks raising millions for the victims in New York City and Washington and western Pennsylvania.
As members of the industry, everyone should be proud of this generous response, led by Group Michelin, a French company, and quickly followed by Goodyear in the U.S. and Bridgestone Corp. of Japan. Each donated $1 million to the American Red Cross and other funds to aid those affected.
It's easy to say these corporations, with huge resources, should be the ones to step up and help out. But this is the tire industry, where competition is fierce and profits scarce.
In a year when Michelin is struggling, Bridgestone/Firestone is reeling from the Firestone tire recalls and Goodyear has lost money through the first three quarters, these firms still donated considerable sums to help others.
This is an impressive gesture that should not be forgotten. These companies are dealing with major challenges, but put those aside when the need arose.
On a smaller but no less significant scale, many tire dealerships also have raised funds to help the victims of the attacks.
Tire Warehouse Central Inc. in Keene, N.H., for example, is donating $1,111 each month for 11 months (for a total of $12,221) to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.
This also will go down as the year the industry's two trade associations, the Tire Association of North America and the International Tire & Rubber Association, finally put aside their differences and agreed to merge after a split that occurred 44 years ago.
Many in the industry have wanted the two to unite for years, but it wasn't until 2001 that the details finally were worked out.
Maybe in the past having two rival associations made sense, with each catering to large and profitable business segments—TANA serving retail tire dealers and ITRA commercial dealers and retreaders. Their rivalry even may have made each group better.
But with industry consolidation reducing the numbers in these dealer groups, the time had come where one association would better serve the interests of the entire industry.
To the credit of both group's officers and board members, they did the hard work to make this merger happen.
Now it's up to the memberships of both organizations to approve the merger, something we expect will occur later this month or in early January.
While many in the industry likely will be glad to see 2001 end, let's not forget the good that happened during a difficult year.