GRAPEVINE, Texas—Rich Kramer used his keynote address that highlighted the final day of the Goodyear Customer Conference to urge dealers to adapt to the severe disruptions in the industry, but proceed with "balance."
"All vehicles—owned or shared, driven or automated, electric or gas powered—need tires now and will need them in the future," said Kramer, the company chairman, CEO and president of the Akron-based tire maker.
Nearly 2,500 Goodyear customers, associates and vendors attended the 40-minute talk, held at the Gaylord Texan near Dallas.
Kramer described the industry as being at an "inflection point," which he defined as a permanent shift that "changes the way we think and act."
He told dealers that changes in four areas indicate an inflection point:
- OEM business model changes;
- How vehicles are being used;
- Shifts in competition; and
- The changing consumer.
While the OEM market is changing—Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have all but eliminated future production of sedans—Kramer said that auto makers still require high-performing, technology-filled tires, "a good thing for Goodyear."
Consumer use vehicles also are accelerating that OE change, Kramer said, citing ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft as examples. Every day, he noted, people become more comfortable with the concept of shared vehicles replacing individual car ownership.
Kramer reminded dealers that competition continues to evolve, not only from traditional tire makers, but also non-tire companies who take another approach to the industry.
He also noted that reacting to the changing consumer, one of Goodyear's tenets, has created new companies, new business models and new categories that focus on reliability, cost and convenience.
Kramer told dealers he knows that all these disruptions can seem confusing, even threatening.
"The good news is that Goodyear and its dealers, our aligned partners, will not be left behind, as we have demonstrated the will and commitment to adapt," Kramer said.
"We will not stand still, we will not give up, and we will not be left behind."