NEW ORLEANS — Bridgestone Americas executive Joseph Saoud is calling out the commercial tire industry, saying it can do a better job selling the benefits of retreading to fleet customers in order to blunt the impact of low-cost new truck tires from China.
The domestic retreading industry has suffered "unprecedented" 3- to 4-percent drops in business the past few years as lower-cost imported new tires have taken market share, Mr. Saoud said. He challenged industry participants — commercial tire dealers, retreaders and tire makers alike — to work together to reverse the "new is better" perception that has taken hold.
"We need to educate our customers," he told those attending his keynote address at the 2017 North American Tire & Retread Expo in New Orleans. The event was held April 19-21 at the Ernest Morial Convention Center.
Too often lower cost is tied with lower quality, said Mr. Saoud, who is president, truck, bus and retread, U.S. and Canada, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. "Relying on using price as your main selling point is a risky business," he said, suggesting that while this path offers short-term profit opportunities, it also opens the door for customers to shop around and eventually take their business elsewhere.
By suggesting a full-service tire program, based on a cost-per-mile basis that looks at the full life of a truck casing through at least two retreads, dealers are providing a value-added service that ties the customer more solidly.
At the same time, Mr. Saoud said, the industry needs to work at overcoming four key misperceptions about retreads in order to make headway with fleets and other trucking industry customers: quality, safety, reliability and performance.
"We need to approach our customers with a value-driven, quality solution," he said, noting that the industry has sufficient data to support arguments addressing all four misperceptions.
And, he stressed, retreads do all this at less than half the cost of a new tire. That translates into savings of more than $3 billion a year for the trucking industry, which is dealing with a range of competitive issues of its own, including an aging workforce, an eroding infrastructure and pressure to increase the frequency of delivery.
Industrywide education programs have to include recommendations and/or training for drivers on proper tire maintenance. Likewise, fleet supervisors should be educated on proper casing in order to ensure multiple retreadings, stressed Mr. Saoud, who has been with Bridgestone since 2016.
There also are social and ecological aspects to promoting retreading over relying on low cost new tires, he added.
Perhaps the wild card in the equation is the ecological aspect. Bridgestone estimates its Bandag franchisees collectively kept 7 million tires out of the North American waste stream last year alone.
All told, the North American retread industry comprises about 500 enterprises, employing roughly 50,000 workers.