NEW ORLEANS—Bridgestone/Firestone delivered on its promise to its parent company that it would make progress and money in 2004, its top executive told dealers at a recent conference.
Bridgestone Americas Holding Inc. ended the year $183 million in the black after taxes, while sales grew 12 percent to $9.15 billion. The results stemmed from several factors, according to Chairman and CEO Mark Emkes, including growth in the passenger and light truck tire aftermarket, strong unit sales in truck and bus tires, and robust results in diversified products, Latin America and retail.
He told the dealers at the April 26-29 Bizcon conference in New Orleans the firm also recorded significant brand and product mix improvements, as the Bridgestone brand demonstrated another year of continued growth and the Firestone brand continued to recover.
Emkes said many "delicate issues" continue to be discussed between the Bridgestone Corp.-owned tire maker and the United Steelworkers of America as the union seeks a new labor agreement. The two sides have been negotiating since April 18 in St. Louis, and the Steelworkers have been undergoing strike preparations.
"Our goal at Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire is to get an agreement that benefits both parties," he said. "However, what we won´t do is anything that jeopardizes the long-term future of this company. I´d like you to know that whatever happens, we´ll use every global resource to support your business."
Singh Ahluwalia, president of BFS commercial products, truck and bus tires, also addressed a number of goals for Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire in the commercial sector. One critical goal for 2005, he said, is to hit break-even following a loss in the unit for 2004.
Ahluwalia outlined six strategies that would not only help the company reach that objective but also would boost its commercial business in 2005. One goal is to achieve an operating profit and contribute to Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire´s break-even, he said, while another is to improve unit sales volume in the commercial business.
The company also wants to precisely manage its inventory, he said, noting that capacity is maxed out globally.
Emkes and Ahluwalia said rising costs for raw materials and energy are challenging the company. Although those are two issues of concern, Ahluwalia is optimistic because the trucking industry and freight volume continues to grow.