LAS VEGASAmong the keys to success in the tire industry is a relentless focus on customers and their evolving needs, Michelin North America Inc. Chairman and President Pete Selleck told attendees at the Tire Industry Association's Honors Awards Ceremony Nov. 2 in Las Vegas.
Brands are all about trust, he said during his keynote address. Your customers are willing to pay a premium if they trust that you're going to do the right thing all the time.
However, customers are going to be changing. Millennials are not going to buy tires the same way that baby boomers do, Mr. Selleck pointed out.
There's too much information out there. They know how to get the information. They want to buy it their way and they are going to buy it their way, he said.
In the end the consumer is going to dictate it. So we've got to really be tuned in and not think that the consumer of tomorrow is going to be the same as the consumer is today.
Secondly, he said safety is a huge priority for this industry. Keeping customers safe on the road with safe products and professional services is key.
We need to be constantly educating people on the basics of tire safety, Mr. Selleck said.
Whether that is the inflation pressure or what tread depth a tire should have, this information is not necessarily being taught at home, he said.
Lastly, he said companies need to meet responsibilities they have to their community and to society at large.
Mr. Selleck, whose term as president of the Rubber Manufacturers Association expired recently, used evolution and the need to change and adapt as needed as the theme of his presentation.
(Michelin is) successful as a company because we constantly recognize what makes us good today is not what's going to make us good tomorrow, he said.
Mr. Selleck also used his role as keynote speaker to point out some of the trends he said he thought will be influencing the economy in the U.S. and glo-bally.
The U.S. economy has rebounded more strongly than other developed countries, he said, a situation he credited to cultural adaptability, innovation and less regulation.
He referenced a chart in the Wall Street Journal (at left) that showed the U.S. economy has grown 9 percent, after inflation, since the recession of 2008.
You can see the dramatic growth compared to the Eurozone, which has still not even clocked back up to where it was before the crisis. I think that as (the) Americas, we take a lot of that for granted, Mr. Selleck added.
But what it really demonstrates is the cultural adaptability of the American market.
With that, it's the Americas' ability to change and even creatively destroy and rebuild if necessary, he said, that makes it successful.
There's lots of parts of the world where there's a lot of regulation that prevents that from happening, he said.
The U.S. is fortunate to be growing at a rate of roughly 1.5 percent per year, Mr. Selleck added.
The biggest external threat to Michelin over the next 20 years, he said, is whether or not the American economy will continue to grow.
And the biggest single threat, in our minds, in the U.S. economy continuing to grow is the U.S. fiscal budget, Mr. Selleck said.
From our perspective, this is a real problem.
Also during the event, TIA inducted five longtime industry participants into the Tire Industry Hall of Fame:
c The late Ross Fischer, owner of McCord Auto Supply of Wateska, Ill., who developed a wheel application for Goodyear flotation tires that allowed them to be used in agriculture;
c Herman Hy Freeman, retired technical services and training manager at Rema Tip Top North America, who helped establish industrywide standards for permanent tire repair;
c Paul Hyatt, chairman of Superior Tire & Auto of Scarborough, Ontario, and a past president of TIA and the Tire Dealers Association of Canada;
c Raghupati Singhania, chairman and managing director of JK Tyres & Industries Ltd. and a leading official in several Indian tire and rubber industry associations; and
c Bucky Stein, founder of Target Tire of Jacksonville, N.C., who was born in 1925 to a father who had a one-man tire repair shop. Mr. Stein, who went into business with his dad after World War II, founded Target Tire in 1963 and started his own tire brand, Avalon, in 1970. He sold Target Tire in 2004 and the last of the firm's retail stores in 2011.
TIA also named two winners of its Ed Wagner Leadership Award:
c Tom Klinge, managing director and co-founder of the Klinge Group, an Australia-based global provider of tire management control software and maintenance system services; and
c Kevin Rohlwing, TIA senior vice president of training and developer of TIA training programs in automotive, commercial, earthmover, farm and industrial tires.
In addition, Ricky and Dianne Benton, owners of Black's Tire & Auto Service of Whiteville, N.C., received the Tire Business Tire Dealer Humanitarian Award.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6143; Twitter: @jenniferkarpus