A second wave of COVID-19—along with additional manufacturing shutdowns—could impact the industry in the second half, according to Stan Chandgie, vice president of consumer sales at Yokohama Corp. of North America. He also said that Yokohama's "Advantage" consumer associate dealer program, as well as the rollout of its all-season Geolandar CV G058, have been well received in the industry.
How would you describe business thus far in 2020?
Well, we've obviously never seen anything like 2020. Factories have been idled; vehicle, truck and equipment manufacturers have suspended operations; and the tire market has clearly suffered. The first half of April represented the darkest days our industry has faced in the modern era.
On the bright side, we have definitely seen signs of recovery throughout the month of May as stay-at-home orders have been lifted and manufacturing has resumed.
What are some of the key changes the company has made in order to keep employees and customers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We've had to make decisions in waves, first and foremost to keep our employees and customers safe, second to stay operational and prepare for the future and finally to re-emerge positioned for future success.
We started restricting some travel in early March, which was expanded later in the month, along with instituting a remote work policy for our corporate staff. We also made the difficult decision to suspend production at our plants in the U.S. so that we could create a safer environment for our manufacturing team members.
At this point, our plants have resumed production and office staff has returned, albeit to a different, more controlled environment with an emphasis on health and safety.
Can you provide an update on your North American plants? Are they producing at capacity?
Our plants in North America are up, running and fully operational.
Do you expect any supply difficulties in the second half of the year?
From an ability to produce standpoint, no. We were well-positioned pre-pandemic, which allowed us to work through gaps in production as manufacturing was strategically suspended on a global scale. As production has come back online, we have been able to quickly recover and are projecting strong fill rates for our customers throughout the remainder of the year.
What we cannot predict, however, is the impact of a second wave of the virus and how governments will respond around the world. The possibility of additional manufacturing shutdowns remains a very real threat, but actions that are currently under way should mitigate any interruption in supply.
Yokohama had an active 2019, rolling out myriad products. What did you learn from that, and how does that shape the North American operations moving forward?
I don't know if "learned" is the right word, but we certainly confirmed what we already knew, which is that the thirst for new products in the industry is high.
2019 was certainly a big year for us in terms of the quantity of new products launched, but the quality is what we're proud of. We released a combination of pure replacement products, and products that were incremental to our existing offering.
Moving forward, that won't change. We're committed to managing product life cycles as well as attacking new areas of opportunity.