There definitely are different ways of measuring success these days in the global tire industry. Years ago, it was a big deal to be crowned as the No. 1 tire maker in the world based on sales totals.
You had the “Big 3” of Bridgestone, Michelin and Goodyear battling it out for the top spot, and there really was drama from year to year on who would come out on top. And whether they said so publicly or not, it mattered to them who won.
But being the biggest doesn't seem to be, well, that big of a deal anymore.
For the record, Bridgestone remained No. 1 for the seventh consecutive year, at just more than $26 billion in tire sales, with Michelin in its now familiar No. 2 slot at $24.7 billion.
Goodyear once again came in third, with sales of $16.4 billion. As its tire revenue eroded more than $4 billion from 2011 to 2014, the Akron-based tire maker now is closer to No. 4 Continental, with $11.9 billion, than it is to No. 2 Michelin.
Clearly, though, Goodyear Chairman Richard Kramer has a different measurement for success than the top line. Despite sales that dropped in terms of dollar amounts for the first half—with a significant amount of the decline coming from foreign currency translation—the Goodyear leader pointed at robust operating margins of 13.4 percent in North America, 16 percent in Asia-Pacific and 12.4 percent in Latin America. Only its Europe, Middle East and Africa segment, at a 7 percent margin, fell short of Goodyear's targets.
Continental itself has shown surprising strength in its tire and rubber business. Among the top 10 tire makers, only four posted higher revenue in 2014 than in 2011, and Conti was by far the biggest gainer, with sales increasing $1.2 billion in the period.
After changing its focus years ago to become a diversified automotive supplier giant, it was thought Continental's tire and rubber units would suffer. While now making up just 26 percent of overall Conti sales, the firm's Rubber Group—including the ContiTech industrial rubber unit—is projected to report a 2015 operating earnings ratio of 16 percent.
Definitely a success, by any measure.