If you know the name “Roger Schreffler,” that would tell me something about you. It would mean you are a longtime reader of Rubber & Plastics News. You probably have an interest in stories about Japanese rubber industry companies, tire and non-tire alike. Or perhaps you just like to read about the tire giants.
That is because Schreffler, a freelancer who works for several automotive-related publications, wrote about those subjects for many years for RPN. He also did a little work in the past for some of our parent company's other publications.
Schreffler's forte is reporting on Japanese companies. For decades he has done so, periodically travelling from his home in Providence, R.I., to spend months in Japan, beating the bushes for stories. His wife, Mieko, is Japanese, absolutely fluent in English, and is a successful, sought-after translator. I visited them this past summer while making an East Coast swing.
During the 44-year history of RPN, Schreffler produced some of the best scoops we ever had. Many of them concerned Bridgestone, back in the early days of its purchase of Firestone.
Schreffler had two “ins” with Bridgestone, excellent sources intimately involved with Bridgestone's decision making, from the boardroom to the operational level. Buying Firestone was no easy task for Bridgestone, since the company was auctioned off to the highest bidder, and a Pirelli bid, backed by Michelin, bounced up the price. Then when the Japanese tire maker took over the business, it found the operations to be in awful shape and in need of major investment.
No company likes to disclose bad news—who does?—and tire makers are notorious for sanitizing information they release. With his inside sources, Schreffler produced reports that showed the internal struggle at Bridgestone, and believe me, Bridgestone higher ups didn't like that copy.
I particularly felt bad for the public relations operative who had to pass along this displeasure. He never denied the truth of the reports—which we always gave Bridgestone a chance to discuss—but said they were just embarrassing and a problem for him. Poor guy.
That was a better reaction than we got from other stories Schreffler wrote about Goodyear having a competitor in Japan build its tires sold there. The Goodyear folks hotly denied those reports about an offtake agreement, and told us we shouldn't be publishing them. Funny thing, years later Goodyear tire execs readily admitted the stories were accurate.
It must be tough working for a huge corporation, forced to take the “high road” of prevarication.
Schreffler still goes to Japan, still writes reams of copy for automotive publications. Journalism is a tough racket as it is, and living as a freelancer is even harder and less secure. You wouldn't know it to look at him, but Schreffler is as tough a reporter as I ever met.
A time ago, that served RPN readers well.
Noga is a contributing editor of RPN and its former editor. He can be reached at [email protected]