AKRON — Goodyear's Rich Kramer described the tire industry as being at an "inflection point," where technology and data are changing mobility completely.
The change is "no less revolutionary than the move from horses to the Model T," he told those attending the Akron Roundtable's monthly business lunch series on Aug. 17.
"Imagine a tire that can tell your vehicle not only that your inflation is low but can sense that you're carrying 500 pounds of cargo on tires with worn tread, driving on icy roads, and it automatically adjusts your vehicle's speed and handling while you sit back and enjoy the ride," he said.
The Goodyear chairman, president and CEO said that the key to success for the company — and the community of Akron at large — is to embrace the change with a "front-foot forward" mentality.
Kramer spoke at the Akron Roundtable event at the John S. Knight Center in downtown Akron to mark the company's 125th anniversary. Goodyear was founded Aug. 29, 1898.
"Our history has revolved around commonalities and patterns that have been repeated through generations of change," Kramer said. "Our founders certainly could not have pictured what the world would look like in 2023, but they started building a path that has led us to where we are today."
Kramer described inflection points during the company's history — "those moments and events that are often unexpected but after which nothing is ever the same" — like the introduction of the automobile. Instead of seeing automobiles as a threat to their carriage tire business, Goodyear evolved business to support the new industry.
"Military transportation hastened the development of pneumatic truck tires. A shortage of natural rubber in WWII was the impetus for Goodyear and other tire makers to work together to refine and master synthetic rubber," he said.
"Our historical pattern of confronting challenges head on, using lessons learned from the past and embracing new solutions gives us the confidence today that we can handle anything that's coming at us in the future."
Today's inflection point is a bi-product of technology, connectivity and convenience, he said. The drive for convenience is changing business models and consumer behavior.
"It's begun to affect the infrastructure needed to deliver on those expectations," Kramer said.