Steven Smidlein, senior vice president of Apollo Tires North America, talked with Tire Business about his company's plans to increase its market share, especially with its Vredestein-brand line.
Q: How would you describe business thus far in 2018?
A: Excellent. We continue to grow the Vredestein brand with select regional wholesalers and large retailers in the U.S. and Canada. We are finding strong receptivity for another premium European brand.
Q: What are some of the pleasant surprises you are seeing in the industry?
A: The continued growth in the industry and the level of interest for the Vredestein brand.
Q: Where do you see the industry markets heading during the last half of 2018?
A: We are optimistic that with the current economic climate that demand will remain strong for the second half of the year.
Q: What kind of trends are you seeing in the marketplace? How is your company reacting to them?
A: The continued consolidation is obvious, and we remain open to capitalizing on this new reality.
Q: What sectors look to be strong? Are they sustainable for the future?
A: The original equipment and car dealer channel continue to grow and, along with online sales, will represent new growth.
Q: What sectors are struggling? How soon do you expect them to rebound?
A: Farm has struggled a bit over the last two years, but we have seen this market pick up considerably the last six months and expect this to continue for the foreseeable future given the new economic policies.
Q: Can you update the status of your fifth plant, in Andhra, India? Has work begun on the site?
A: The foundation stone for the factory was laid on Jan. 18, and the plant is progressing as per plan.
Q: How are things going at the plant in Hungary?
A: The factory is ramping up smoothly as per plan.
Q: Do you expect to roll out any products in 2018? What will they be and what sector will they serve?
A: We launched the ultra-high-performance winter tire Wintrac Pro at Tire Cologne, Germany,...and the tire will be available for sales in the U.S. and Canada in the coming winter. We have other product launches lined up during the year.
Q: Has the U.S. headquarters been moved to Atlanta? What are the benefits of moving it there?
A: We moved our new headquarters to Atlanta in June 2017. We are capitalizing on a strong employment market with other OEs and tire manufactures also located in the Southeast.
Q: Any update on future plans to build a plant in the U.S.?
A: We continue to work to that end and remain positive in it happening in the next several years.
Q: Do you foresee any price hikes in the second half of the year?
A: We continue to monitor raw materials and especially oil and will not rule out a price increase between now and the end of the year.
Q: What are some of the challenges of the industry going forward? What keeps you up at night?
A: Growing a brand in an ever changing and consolidating market is challenging but also presents opportunity. I sleep well!
Q: How have the U.S. tax cuts affected how you do business? Are customers more willing to buy because of the tax cut?
A: The tax cuts have not affected Apollo/Vredestein in any specific way but seem to have created a more favorable retail market.
Q: Do you expect any major investments in the next six months?
A: As we continue to grow, we will invest in our new products and additional associates and organizational resources.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A:Since moving to Atlanta we have added many new and very tire-experienced key members to our team.
- Chet Plewwacki, general manager sales and marketing, formerly with Pirelli, Yokohama and TBC;
- Felecia Avery, manager supply chain and logistics, previously with Continental Tire the past 11 years;
- Jared Scranton, senior operations analyst and customer service, previously in retail and with TBC;
- Alric Pagon, finance manager, previously with Apollo U.K.
- Brian Robinson, manager OHT West, previously in various senior sales management roles with BKT, ATD, Hercules and California distributors.
- Nathan Miller and Bill Haney are other members of the sales team.