The Slovenia Times

Interview: Thierry Villard, Goodyear Dunlop Sava Tires



Amidst the overall economic situation and turmoil, how has Goodyear Dunlop Sava Tires been operating?

The tyre industry was very affected by the crisis at the end of 2008 and 2009. We made a conscious decision that, despite the crisis and our knowledge that business would go down, we would keep on investing - in our plant, in our people, in our brands. By 2010 we had entered the recovery phase and in 2011, we both globally and locally as Goodyear Dunlop Sava Tires, saw a sales record. In Slovenia, we had record sales in local markets (EUR 132m versus EUR 111m in 2010), the volumes in local markets grew 4 % from 2010, with a total net sales increase of 19 %. We invested over EUR 10m into the plant. 2012 though, brings new challenges due to weakening industry in Europe. We can see lower demand, tougher market conditions, consumers being more price sensitive etc. Given the current situation (the euro crisis), experiences from 2009 and forecasts from different experts, we don't see that the overall business situation will significantly recover in 2013. Most experts believe that the situation in Europe won't recover before 2014. But our goal is to continue with investment in our products and our associates, despite the situation (in 2012, we plan to invest even more than in 2011!)- so as to continue our story as one of the most successful foreign investments in Slovenia.

Talking about investments, which are the areas where you invest the most?

The major investment area is our production facility in Kranj. At first glance, the investments are seen in state-of-the-art manufacturing, which is well recognised and established within Goodyear as one of our top factories worldwide. We have also significantly improved our safety performance, lowering the accident rate by 94% since 1999. We have also significantly improved our environmental footprint. For example, we have reduced the amount of waste by over 90%, the amount of water in the manufacturing by half; we use energy more efficiently and we basically don't use solvents in tyre manufacturing anymore. At the same time, we have also invested heavily in our associates, giving them great learning and training opportunities. Our goal is to let people know how important they are to the company's success and to be socially responsible - to give back what we get from community.

How much do you invest in so called "green" technology?

We can talk not only of "green" technology as such, but rather about the holistic sustainability approach of Goodyear globally. Goodyear continuously strives to improve the whole lifecycle of a tyre and we consider the environmental footprint of a tyre from cradle to grave - meaning from its production to its usage and towards its end. For example, when tyres are produced, we focus on environmentally friendly production (using no solvents, reducing energy and water consumption etc). Our innovation centers in Ohio, USA and in Luxembourg also focus on developing low-rolling-resistance tyres which impact the fuel efficiency of a vehicle. Our investments in Slovenia are mainly dedicated to lowering the environmental impact of our production which, in the end, also helps result in a "greener" product.

How satisfied are you with the business and general working environment in Slovenia over the last few years?

I always say that Slovenia is a great place both to live and work. You should be very proud of your country, its strengths and opportunities and foremost its people! It is true, though, that we can see some level of fear or mistrust of foreign capital which sometimes saddens me, especially considering Goodyear's commitment over the years. I think Slovenia needs new investments and not only in R&D but also industry - keeping in mind that it is easy to move a small office to a different location but not so easy to move an entire factory and all its investments. Slovenia will have to open up to foreign capital, otherwise other countries from the former Yugoslavia could beat it. Some of the things that would help to attract other foreign investors are the ones we have always stressed: a long term tax incentive framework, attractive financing, more flexible working legislation etc.

What, would you say are the biggest advantages of Slovenia?

For us, Slovenia is as an important, strategic location which offers advantages that enable the development of high value-added production. Besides the geo-strategic location, I would point out the highly skilled labour force and good infrastructure, especially compared to other countries from former Yugoslavia.

To return to the tyre industry, what are the main trends in the industry at the moment?

In Europe, the upcoming EU Tyre Label Regulation is the key focus of the industry at the moment. As of 1 November 2012, all new passenger car, truck and light truck tyres produced as of 1 July and sold within the EU have to be sold with standardised label information that will provide consumers, fleet owners and professional tyre purchasers with valuable information on three key tyre performance attributes: wet grip, rolling resistance and exterior rolling noise.

Do you believe that consumers are well prepared for labelling, do they know what the label says about a tyre's performance?

Goodyear Dunlop has been very active in educating its customers and end-users, not only about the importance of the three criteria introduced by the label that you mention (rolling resistance, wet grip, noise), but also about nearly 50 other performance criteria that are analysed by Goodyear Dunlop. You see, the label makes it easier for consumers to understand the differences between tyres but we should remember that the EU tyre label doesn't reveal everything about a tyre's performance or environmental credentials. There are many other important safety criteria, such as aquaplaning resistance, wet handling, dry braking and traction. That's why Goodyear Dunlop analyses over 50 performance criteria, independent tyre tests from automotive clubs and magazines typically analyse up to 15. Particularly now, before the winter season, consumers should be aware that the label does not fully reflect the performance of winter tyres. These are developed to perform under specific winter conditions at low temperatures - and the label does not inform on those aspects. We will definitely continue with educating all stakeholders about the importance of all major important safety criteria.

Aside from tyre labeling, what are the other key projects of Goodyear Dunlop Sava Tires at the moment?

Like I said, we continue with our commitment to spreading road safety awareness with programmes such as our Goodyear Safety Ambassadors. Through our proactive approach, we include famous Slovenians such as Alenka Godec into helping us to educate children about road safety. We also continue to spread environmental awareness with the campaign Pozor(!)ni za okolje (Pay Attention to the Environment!). After two very successful years of the campaign in the Gorenjska region, we have now invited all high schools in Slovenia to join us in recycling and better management of their waste.


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