Under the Microscope: We talk to Goodyear's fleet boss, David Morris
05 June 2018
Author: Rachel Boagey
Goodyear is celebrating its 120th Birthday. Rachel Boagey heads to the Solihull office to meet its fleet boss
If I asked you to think of the first tyre manufacturer that comes into your head, it would probably be Goodyear, or possibly Dunlop. That's probably because the two companies, which formed a partnership in 1999, are two of the world's oldest tyre manufacturers. Each boasts a history that stretches back more than 100 years. In fact, Goodyear hasn't just had one good year, but almost exactly 120 of them.
"We have years of experience in manufacturing tyres, now, and we really pride ourselves on that and the fact that we win so many tyre tests too. It's something we are really proud of and continue to see success with," says David Morris, head of fleet at Goodyear.
Although it started as a manufacturer of road tyres, some might remember Goodyear's history in Formula One. "We left, as a brand decision, in 1999, when we formed our partnership with Dunlop, but they still manufacture tyres for race cars,"
Instead of involving itself in racing, Goodyear now prides itself as more of a safety and innovation brand, one that has earned it a healthy and popular position in the fleet marketplace.
"Goodyear is synonymous with innovation and safety, and fleets are very aware that we have the most award-winning products, the newest technology in our tyres versus our competitors, and the broadest range of sizes and fitments within our tyres, too," Morris says. "Asked by a fleet, we always refer back to the features and benefits of each tyre, of which there are many, and the fact they've been proved as popular in the market."
Some of the safety benefits of Goodyear's tyres include shorter braking distances and better performance in wet conditions, explains Morris. "We err towards those features and benefits when talking to our potential fleet customers, as they set us apart from our competitors," he says.
In the fleet business that Morris heads, the brand has two significant pillars. "The first pillar involves looking after fleet and leasing from a tyre brand perspective and working with fleets and leasing companies to gain our fair market share in their companies and car fleet," he explains.
"Then we have a second pillar that is our supply and fit business, where we go out to corporate fleets and local businesses to do a tyre supply and fit solution, using our independent network franchisees
As a premium brand with a focus on 17in tyres and above, Goodyear has a good fit percentage with fleet and leasing customers. It consists of historical and new business, as fleet and leasing customers tend to focus on a premium tyre brand due to overall cost-saving benefits. But retail is also a big focus for the manufacturer. "Fleet is a separate entity and we have robust sales for fleet. In terms of retail for consumer car tyres, we have a much bigger customer base on that side, but they would still be buyers of premium cars," Morris says.
But that doesn't mean fleet isn't important to Goodyear and the brand has recently been concentrating on a business strategy that it calls the FACE model. This stands for fleet, autonomous, connected and electric vehicles. "Everything we're working towards from an innovation point of view leads into one of those pillars and focuses the mind on where we're going as a business and as a company overall," says Morris.
All of the manufacturing innovations the company is working on, now and going forward, must fit into one of these sections, ensuring that the company has a holistic plan for future innovations in tyres. Recent products include the company's Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3, which is now one of its key premium tyres, and which the company has just launched in an SUV version, on display just outside the front doors of the HQ on the new Alfa Romeo Stelvio.
"We maintain a certain market share of original equipment fitment on the Stelvio and some other SUVs, including the Jaguar F-Pace. This is essentially a SUV version of our premium summer tyre and it's predominantly dedicated for use in SUVs due to their particular needs," Morris says.
This is a prime example of Goodyear reacting to the trends in the marketplace. "There has been such a boom in SUVs that we needed to produce something suited for that market," Morris says.
"The tyres have active braking technology, grip booster technology, and the main thing for these tyres is optimised construction. which is what you need with these heavier vehicles. The tyres have a braking distance 1.2m shorter than the average of our competitors too."
Looking to the future, it's not just the strength of the materials in tyres that will need to be improved, but also their smart and connected capabilities, which Morris says will be of particular benefit to Goodyear's
"We look at the connected tyres we've been producing for our CV fleets and we've been able to bring this connected tyre technology down into the car fleet now," he says. "We call this Proactive Solutions. So far, it has been much more prevalent in the truck tyre industry, as it was easier to invent that technology for bigger tyres, but now fleet managers are demanding more data from their pool of cars."
The main reason car tyres haven't seen much innovation in regard to the Internet of Things (IoT) is not because of a lack of technology in existance. "Data is now everything to a fleet manager, and these technologies we've been working on enable early warning systems and a view of potential issues with the car, and allow fleet managers to get it fixed before it causes any problems or downtime," says Morris.
Although legislation in November 2014 mandated tyre pressure monitoring for new cars, Morris says fleet managers still need help. "The technology is all very good at telling the driver there's a problem with tyre pressure, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the driver does anything about it, or that it's flagged to his fleet manager or transport manager," he says.
"More advanced technology that we're working on promotes better data to transport managers, garage, dealers and tyre fitters, and would be able to automatically pass the data back to those people. As a tyre manufacturer, we have to be on top of our game with the OEMs, to make sure we continue to be their brand of choice for tyres now and, increasingly, connected tyres
Interestingly, Morris points to the fact that cars aren't necessarily going to continue to be owned assets anymore and will instead increasingly be used in a fleet style set-up, with the advent and increasing popularity of car sharing.
"Vehicles on the road are going to have to be working for triple the amount of time, with four, five or six drivers, as they will be shared mobility solutions and it's better to ensure that it's proactively maintained," Morris says.
"It's only going to become more vital for these vehicles to not break down, but if they're going to, then the key is to detect it and we need to make sure that tyres are part of this solution."
When it comes to electric vehicles, Goodyear has been working on an EfficientGrip performance prototype which aims to reduce the rolling distance and therefore increase range. Morris says electric vehicles are a lot heavier than a conventional car and many OEMs are finding that, with battery technology being quite heavy, vehicles can only take a certain amount of weight. "Vehicle manufacturers are looking for the biggest range out of their EV and are looking to tyre manufacturers to help them achieve that range as the battery can only do so much," he says. "They're looking to all the peripheral ways of increasing range and luckily we're able to innovate in improving it for them."
Autonomous cars are still a bit of a mystery when it comes to how the tyres will look and what shape they'll be, but Morris is sure that everything on the autonomous car will need to be connected together. "We have been innovating with concept tyres that have technologies in them connecting tyres to the vehicle, so it knows when it has to go to the local dealership to have its tyres changed, for example.
"We've looked into many technological innovations such as spherical tyres and self-healing materials, for example, but these all seem very futuristic in the tyre world at the moment. Saying that, though, what we were working on say five years ago in the area of 'future tyres', such as putting a chip in the tyre to feedback data, is actually on its way to market as we speak."