Cooper Tire adds new management staff for GCC expansion plans
Century-old American tyre-maker Cooper Tire is currently keen to take a bigger share of the Middle East pie when it comes to tyres, especially in the last two years. With rivals such as Continental Tires setting up a regional office in Dubai a couple of years ago, following both Michelin and Bridgestone, it seems our region is finally being taken seriously. We recently had a chat with Luis Ceneviz, who is the Cooper Tire managing director for EMEA and Latin American markets, alongside regional sales director Christophe Huss, regional marketing director Michiel Kramer and the European Technical Center’s general manager Gavin Richards.
Luis Ceneviz says that this region is under the Europe regional office, but that is subject to change. “Our vision, in the next 5 years is to grow our market share to 3% and for that, we are trying to make this region three clusters -– Cluster 1 will be mainland Europe and UK, Cluster 2 will be Middle East and Cluster 3 will be Africa. We are also trying to focus on 3 main brands, namely Cooper, Avon and Mastercraft, and we are looking for ambassadors for each of those brands. We are also bringing huge product development and will keep refreshing the product line, based on what the region needs. In Europe, their needs are different and they are different in the Middle East and Africa. By ‘clusterisation’, we are going to understand those markets better and support our ambassadors in the best possible manner. We are also expanding our factories and the number of factories, globally. Last year, we bought a factory in China, for truck tyres and we are developing it. We will also make existing factories bigger and make them produce products that are more sophisticated. To do all that we need experienced people behind it and that is the reason we are absorbing people like Christophe, our Regional Manager and Michiel, our Marketing Director. They can hit the ground running, giving support for strategies, distribution and product.”
Christophe Huss says that the Middle East is getting more complex in terms of homologation and regulations. “However, this is making it a safer market in terms of distribution, the product that comes here, goes out of here much less than in the past, as it is more and more consumed by the region’s consumers. The retail markets in the UAE and the Saudi Arabia have changed completely in the last 2 to 3 years. But our product range is also improving, performance is improving and the effort needed in terms of improving performance is also increasing. New products adapted to the market is the priority now. In Germany, magazines give recommendations and about 80% of consumers look at those rating and we i.e. Cooper tyres are highly recommended, which means we are the top in performance in the market. And these products are adapted for the Middle Eastern market here, because we have a lot of high performance cars from Europe and Asia.”
Michiel Kramer adds that last year, Cooper Tire participated in the Dakar Rally with a team with normal production tyres and they have won more than once, against teams running on special racing tyres. Their ambassador, Xavi Foj, has been named a Dakar legend, one of only 6 people who have been given this title. David Coulthard also helps them with the development of tyres as well as being a brand ambassador.
Gavin Edwards adds, “We use him to develop the product, to guide us to get to the next level of performance on the road. We are trying to leverage the technology from the track, make that technology transfer to use from track to the mainstream vehicles.”
Kramer says that in the next 5 years, they will be “enhancing” all the product lines, not only for SUVs that they are best known for, but for regular passenger cars too. Apparently one in every four tyres sold in the U.S. is made by Cooper, and they want to replicate that by making sure that the tyres that are required here are actually tweaked for this market.
In terms of sustainability, Ceveniz says that all their products now are made from “clean” oil. “We are also using different types of natural rubbers and of the company’s four technical centres, one of them is dedicated to futuristic things, how to reduce rolling resistance, how to improve fuel economy and how we can use different raw materials. Within our factories, we are reducing the waste generated. We are using different materials to clean the place, so that we are not contaminating anything. Every year, we have to beat targets set to reduce the consumption of energy.”
We asked what sets Cooper Tire apart from other manufacturers? Kramer says “It’s safety! If you look at our products, you have the rolling resistance, which we have reduced, but we are doing it hand in hand with safety, because tyres are a safety product at the end of the day. If you look at the labels, you see that we have an extremely good rating for wet conditions and for rolling resistance. We don’t sacrifice one for the other. We do it hand-in-hand.” Huss adds “We are also looking for distributors with the same quality and commitment. It is not just affordability and price; there is quality in the relationship, in the product and in the service.”
Huss also said “We are in favour of spreading information about the tyres and their importance in the car. If you don’t have gas, the car stops, if the engine ceases, the car stops, if the air conditioning doesn’t work, you get hot, but if a tyre fails, you’re placing your life at risk. And the contact on the road depends on the kind of tyre you have. We believe in bringing information to the market through our partners.”