In some ways, it was a love fest.
At Bridgestone/Firestone's 7th annual BizCon commercial dealer meeting April 23-25 in Las Vegas, company officials and attending dealers expressed gratitude for each other's role in helping pull the company out of the mire of the 2000 Firestone Wilderness/ATX recalls.
``Not so long ago, some of the press, some of our competitors, some of the so-called financial and marketing experts predicted that Bridgestone/Firestone wouldn't make it,'' said John Lampe, Bridgestone/Firestone chairman and CEO. ``None of those people knew us. They didn't know how proud we were of our company and our products. They didn't know how strong our partnership was.''
For their turn, many of the 400 dealers and their spouses gave Mr. Lampe a standing ovation even before he began his remarks.
``(Dealers) hung with the company because of the way the company hung with us,'' said Frank Anderson of Frank Anderson Tire Co. in Columbus, Ind. He added that Mr. Lampe was the ``linchpin'' of the situation.
Gary Johnson of J&E Tire Center Inc. in Indianapolis said he had increased his business with Firestone during the recall because he knew the firm would rebound.
``We're just so proud of them,'' he said.
As evidence of the tire maker's turnaround, Mr. Lampe said Bridgestone Corp.'s consolidated group net sales in 2002 were $18 billion, up 5 percent.
``This is especially worth noting, considering the global tire industry volume for 2001 was virtually flat,'' he said.
And in the Americas, Bridgestone Americas Holding Inc. reported a net profit of $83 million in 2002 on sales of $7.6 billion. This follows $1.67 billion loss on sales of $7.4 billion in 2001.
Mr. Lampe said BFS has made considerable headway in its ``Making It Right'' campaign, which targets improvements in the tire maker's product quality and safety.
``In good times as well as bad, Bridgestone/Firestone continues to invest wisely for the future,'' Mr. Lampe told dealers.
Mark Emkes, chairman, CEO and president of Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, said the division posted consolidated net sales in 2002 of $3.7 billion, up 6 percent from 2001.
In addition, Bridgestone brand consumer sales increased 30 percent in 2002, and the Firestone brand stabilized after strong sales in the second quarter, he said.
``We expect our recovery to continue, and that's good news,'' Mr. Emkes said, adding he expects slight increases from 2002 sales because of economic factors.
To continue this growth, Mr. Emkes said BFS will focus on two core initiatives: lowering operating costs and making industry-leading investments in products.
``It's no longer enough to know what your competitors are doing,'' he said. ``What has become critical today is to know where the end user is going tomorrow.''