The year 2020 began as many other years have in recent memory.
Wholesale distributor K&M Tire Inc. held its annual Dealer Conference & Trade Show, celebrating its 50th anniversary with a special bash in Columbus, Ohio, not far from where it was founded. Days later, dealers from across the country flocked to the Goodyear Customer Conference in Colorado, where they watched the Super Bowl on the opening night and heard from Goodyear CEO and President Rich Kramer on the closing day.
Marketing group Point S Tire & Automotive Service USA held its annual conference before a record crowd, buoyed by one of its strongest years ever financially, as sales in 2019 grew more than 10% from the previous year.
Mergers and acquisition (M&A) activity kicked into gear in the early months, as it usually does, as Mavis Tire (112 NTB locations in four states) and Pomp's Tire (19 GCR stores across the Midwest) grew substantially.
There were signs, though, of an impending crisis.
On Feb. 5, Tire Business reported that Goodyear had suspended operations at two facilities in China — its Chinese headquarters in Shanghai, as well as its tire plant in Pulandian, Liaonging Province — until at least Feb. 9 over concerns about the "Wuhan coronavirus."
A few days later, we reported that Bridgestone Americas Inc. said its operations were unaffected but it was "monitoring the situation."
Bridgestone, like Tier 1 tire makers Continental A.G. and Michelin Group, followed suit, while suspending all business travel to China.
And little did we know that the headline that lead the March 16 issue of Tire Business — which was assembled and printed four days earlier — would portend of the months ahead: "Tire makers' fiscal outlooks reflect uncertain climate."
Many held out hope that the crisis wouldn't reach the shores of North America, or worse yet, shut down the economy.
That hope vanished on March 11, when the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. On that day, Nexen Tire America Inc. postponed its Nexen Adventure, set for Banff, Alberta, to August. That trip, like hundreds of others, has been postponed a second time and is currently set for March.
Fortunately for the tire industry, government agencies deemed the tire and automotive service industry as "essential," keeping dealerships open even during the darkest days.
To provide some perspective on the importance of that decision, the Tire Business online story announcing tire shops as essential businesses racked up more than 127,000 pageviews, three times as many as the No. 2 story.
2020 not only will be defined by COVID-19, as the virus has come to be known, and its impact on the industry, but also some of the ways it has affected change.
Terms such as face masks, PPE (personal protective equipment), social distancing, quarantine, super spreader and herd immunity have become part of normal conversations.
We have selected five stories — all COVID-19 related — as the top five stories of 2020. We enter 2021 with two hopes:
1) You will have a happy, healthy and safe new year; and
2) COVID-19 will begin to become just a memory a year from today, when we reflect on 2021.