Even a year into the COVID-19 pandemic that has staggered the U.S., there still are so many questions.
When will vaccinations truly be available to the masses? Where does the economy go from here?
And when will things return to normal, whatever normal is at this point?
What once was normal is normal no more in so many ways for tire manufacturers. And the entire tire industry, for that matter.
"That is the question: 'What is the new normal going to look like?'" Jochen Etzel, CEO of Continental Tires the Americas L.L.C., said. "I guess nobody really knows 100%, but I think it will be a mix."
As the fog of COVID-19 eventually lifts, companies will use a combination of past practices along with what's been learned over the past year to navigate the future.
Virtual meetings, for example, will continue and be used along with traditional business travel and face-to-face gatherings, Mr. Etzel said. "I think that will stick. I don't think that will ever go away."
At the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA), CEO Anne Forristall Luke said the pandemic has caused her to question the idea of normalcy. "I don't know what that means anymore."
Regardless of what is now normal and what normal becomes, living through the pandemic has shown her there is flexibility in the tire industry, she said.
"What I learned about myself, the industry, our team and so many other partners that we've worked with in the past year is just how resilient and devoted to each other's success and well-being we are," she said.