RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. — Sumitomo Rubber North America Inc.'s (SRNA) sales in early April reflect the downturn in business many of its North American tire dealers are experiencing during the pandemic.
"For our business specifically, ours began to tail off significantly the last week (first week of April) when it became very apparent that the COVID-19 impact was going to be really significant and could last awhile," Matt Leeper, director of sales-consumer, said during SRNA's COVID-19 Dealer Resource Forum held online April 14.
Ironically, there was an upside: "The silver lining for SRNA is that our back orders are declining from historically high levels," he said.
Mr. Leeper and other SRNA executives gave dealers an update on business conditions for the tire industry in general and the company in particular during the online forum, which will be held bimonthly for its direct and associate dealers. SRNA's Falken brand will be central to the discussion, the tire company said.
"Our goal is to provide a resource to collect and distribute information we've developed internally, as well as gathered from our external sources, to help our tire dealers cope in this challenging and dynamic business environment," said Darren Thomas, Falken Tire's senior vice president of sales and marketing.
During the first forum, SRNA discussed the effects of stay-at-home orders around the U.S.
The stay-at-home orders have impacted everything from service work to manufacturing, Rick Brennan, vice president of strategic planning, said, noting the full impact is expected to be seen in the first two weeks of May through July.
Passenger vehicle miles driven in early April was down 47% from earlier in the year, according to research firm INRIX Inc. Commercial truck mileage was down about 15% to 20% in early April, due in part to the shutdown of manufacturing plants.
With tire manufacturers implementing minimum advertised pricing policies, Mr. Brennan said advertised prices increased in the first quarter "mainly because there were a lot of manufacturers that took price increases at the end of December and through the first quarter."
"We see those coming into effect in minimum advertised price and actual prices that all of you are showing on the internet. So we don't see a lot of price fluctuation because of this activity as of yet.
"So far we haven't seen a big change on retail pricing in the marketplace at this point in time. ... We don't see any major downturns happening in the prices that are being put out in the marketplace, at least as far as facing the consumer."