Goodyear has appointed an executive from a specialty packaging company to the newly created position of president, consumer tires, in its North American Tire unit, effective Oct. 13.
In the post, Lawrence Mason will lead and direct all North American business activities for the consumer tire unit, with responsibility for sales to dealers, distributors, mass retailers, company-owned outlets and original equipment vehicle manufacturers. He will report to Jon Rich, president of North American Tire.
Some independent dealers already are wondering what the appointment might mean for them-and Goodyear's turnaround-in the long run.
Mr. Mason, 43, joins Goodyear from Huhtamaki Americas, where he served as president of North American Foodservice and Retail Consumer Products. Huhtamaki offers food service and retail tableware products, consumer packaging and packaging machinery. The unit of Finland-based Huhtamaki operates 16 facilities in North and South America producing paperboard, plastics, molded fiber and flexibles, according to the company's Web site.
Prior to that position, he worked at Proctor & Gamble Co. for 19 years in a variety of leadership positions in sales and brand management, including director, Wal-Mart/USA Customer Team.
``Larry Mason is a proven business leader with outstanding achievements in developing and implementing customer-driven business plans and processes,'' Mr. Rich said in a statement. ``He brings a high level of commitment and expertise to contribute to our turnaround plan. In addition to a strong customer focus, he adds exceptional strategic planning and consumer marketing skills to our team.''
Jerry Borodkin of Fairfield Tire & Auto Center in Fairfield, Conn., said Goodyear could use someone outside the industry with a fresh perspective to create a national, consumer-driven campaign.
``The guy did work for Proctor & Gamble,'' he said. ``There's no better consumer company in the world.''
But Terry Westhafer, president of Central Tire Corp. in Verona, Va., said Mr. Mason's past assignment with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has him concerned that the appointment will mark a renewed focus by Goodyear on mass merchandisers-to the detriment of independent dealers.
``Goodyear went the mass merchandising route really late, after everyone else had already jumped on it,'' he said. ``...As an independent dealer, I don't feel it's enhanced Goodyear's market share.''
He told Tire Business he's not convinced by the argument that Wal-Mart shoppers don't shop at independents. Instead, he said, the lower prices demanded by discount mass merchandisers only increase prices at independents, who must shoulder a larger profit-margin burden for the tire maker.
``It all has to come out of the bottom line,'' he said.
Besides, more outlets selling tires cut into an independent's pie, Mr. Westhafer said. He pointed to his own market, which has a population of about 100,000 in his county. It has two Wal-Marts, car dealerships and other retailers selling tires. ``It all comes out of our share,'' he said.
A spokesman for the Akron-based tire maker said Mr. Mason's background working with Wal-Mart wasn't his only attractive attribute and, instead, Goodyear found promise in his overall offerings. ``He knows channels,'' he said.
Mr. Borodkin said he's not too concerned about the Wal-Mart factor because independent dealers have their niche as service providers.
``Everyone has their own niche,'' he said. ``I don't mind people eating-there's a lot of different foods out there to eat.''
The spokesman said Goodyear had ``no specific reason'' or goal for creating the position except that Mr. Mason's responsibilities will cover the entire consumer tire business, including replacement and OE.
Mr. Borodkin, who in the past has expressed concern about levels of bureaucracy at Goodyear, said the new position doesn't necessarily add another bulky layer, but the main thing is for Mr. Mason to execute and implement successful programs. He added he feels more comfortable that Mr. Rich has faith in Mr. Mason's qualities.
Mr. Westhafer said he'll wait to see how it turns out.
``I'm pulling for them, (but) I've just got some concerns,'' he said.