Goodyear CEO Sam Gibara's comments earlier this year on the importance of adding the Dunlop brand to the Goodyear lineup was even more prophetic than it seemed at the time. Goodyear's sales lead in North America over its main rivals, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. and Michelin North America Inc., has been shrinking. The firm's sales on the continent the past few years have lagged behind the overall market growth, and definitely have trailed the sales increases posted by its two strongest rivals.
Commenting at the time on the acquisition of the Dunlop brand, Gibara said, ``Offering only Goodyear hurt us in the past. We had a gap in the `better' part of the `good-better-best' proposition.''
The Sumitomo deal will increase Goodyear's North American tire sales base by about 13 percent. However, the key to the company keeping its leadership spot will be if the mid-level brand brings in store traffic, and helps boost Goodyear, Kelly and associate brand sales.
In other words, will Goodyear be able to get its hands around that elusive enigma known as ``synergy''?
Bridgestone/Firestone appears to have at least rubbed shoulders with it. The company claims its North American market share has risen 1 percent annually for the past five years.
Michelin's growth, on the other hand, has been more erratic. Up several points one year, flat the next. The company has been plagued by supply problems in recent years, but new capacities appear to have helped the company overcome this.
Goodyear's set itself some lofty goals. It'll take some Herculean efforts to keep the blimp flying on its desired heading.