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Bridgestone discusses Bandag integration

NEW YORK, N. Y. - Ten months after its blockbuster purchase of the privately-held Bandag retread franchising business and a few weeks after the official merging of its truck tire and retreading operat...

NEW YORK, N. Y. – Ten months after its blockbuster purchase of the privately-held Bandag retread franchising business and a few weeks after the official merging of its truck tire and retreading operations, Bridgestone unveiled its newly named Bridgestone Bandag Tire Solutions (BBTS) business unit to dealers, distributors and press gathered here for the annual BizCon meeting. The public unveiling of the new tire powerhouse included the introduction of the new president for the business, its new home and its strategy for going to market.

Saul Solomon, who joined Bridgestone/Firestone in 1993 as general counsel rising to vicepresident and general counsel of Bridgestone Americas Holding by 2000, was introduced as president of the new group. Having previously led a transition team during Bridgestone Americas’ 2007 merger with Bandag, he went on to serve as chairman, CEO and president of Bridgestone Bandag, LLC beginning June 1, 2007.

BBTS will be operating out of the former headquarters of Bandag in Muscatine, Iowa, however, the sales and marketing functions will be run out of Bridgestone’s Nashville headquarters and will be headed by longtime Bridgestone executive Singh Alhuwalia.

He assumes the role of president, sales and marketing for BBTS. Company officials stressed that the four company brands will retain their unique identities and continue to be marketed under their current mix of channels.

But the goal of the restructuring is to be able to provide fleets with an integrated solution that includes both new tires and retreads for all types of customers. There are four types of tire buyers, according to BBTS officials: “product buyers” who are loyal to specific products or brands; “price only buyers” who focus on cost; “life-cycle buyers,” who want their tire decision to pay dividends on the bottom line over both the short-and long-term, and the “outsourcing buyers.”

The Bridgestone brand will remain the premium offering with Firestone provided as a lower-priced option and Dayton set up to provide an answer to the onslaught of lowpriced offshore products. Bandag will continue with its current franchise set up. Essentially, the Bridgestone and Bandag brands will be offered in all channels. Firestone will be offered in the dealer, truck stop and government channels. Dayton will be offered in the dealer channel.

“Our go-to-market strategy will allow us the ability to compete in all these areas,” said Kurt Danielson, vice-president, North American marketing

The integration has also changed the way the new company will set up its regional sales. Whereas before the integration North America was divided into four regions – Canada and the US northcentral, southeast and west, it is now divided into eight regions: Canada (directed by Jim West) and the US northeast, northcentral, Great Lakes, southeast, southcentral, southwest and northwest.

“Virtually every time we asked our dealers what we could do to deliver more value, the answer was consistently the same. We needed to be more fleet-focused and less concerned with filling our dealers’ shelves. More time with the fleets, less time with the dealers,” said Art Campagnoni, vice-president, North American commercial sales for truck and bus. “We listened. We took action.”

Each sales region will consist of dealer sales managers, regional fleet sales managers, and territory sales managers reporting to the regional fleet sales managers.

“This structure is flatter and more focused. It isn’t focused on just achieving sales numbers. It is focused on providing bundled solutions to fleet customers that buy these products and services from you,” Campagnoni told the dealers and distributors in attendance.

Solomon also acknowledged during a press briefing that company executives struggled with the decision to keep Canada as just one region.

“The geography is so big but the market size is about the same as some of our other regions. And that region is working so well now. The Bandag and the Bridgestone guys are always together. But we would consider Canada East and Canada West regions if we found there was a need,” he said.

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