By Kap Maceda Aguila
IF a veritable slugfest occurs among premium players in the tire market, the lower price points must surely be a free-for-all — if only for the sheer glut of contenders vying for a finite, though considerable, base of buyers.
This is the ring that Firestone now willingly, even eagerly, steps into as it makes a rather calculated reentry into the Philippine market. Purchased in 1988 by Bridgestone, Japan’s largest tire manufacturer, the Nashville, Tennessee, native with over 100 years of history in the industry is undoubtedly coming back stronger through its brand’s own recall and the strength of its affinity with another giant. Both marques are locally marketed by authorized Bridgestone distributor, Philippine Allied Enterprises Corporation (PAEC).
PAEC president and CEO Marc Louie Y. Tagle said in a speech during Firestone’s recent official launch that the company’s tires are “engineered for precision driving, and built for a comfortable and safe drive which most of us do on our daily lives.” He asserted it is about “bringing safety on the road even closer to public reach.”
The return of Firestone in the country is made possible by a couple of crucial factors, according to PAEC assistant vice-president for sales Steven Tagle. Speaking to BusinessWorld, he said that the distributor pulled the trigger because the production cost has gone down following the opening of manufacturing facilities in Thailand and Indonesia. “We see that we can attack China-branded tires now,” the executive continued, and added that there are already some 50 Chinese tire brands here. “If we don’t seize the chance now, in five years there would probably be 80 brands and it would be harder to penetrate.”
However, PAEC is hawking Firestone while being mindful not to encroach on the business of its sibling brand. Steven Tagle reiterated that the game plan is to secure the B and C segments of the market, while leaving Bridgestone to focus on “high-performance, high-class vehicles.” He observed; “We’re missing a lot in those lower segments. [Firestone] is our chance to get into them.”
Firestone’s initial salvo consists of its FS100 Touring tire — keenly envisioned for compact hatches like the Toyota Yaris, Honda Brio, Honda Jazz, Mitsubishi Mirage, Mazda2, and Suzuki Swift, and compact sedans like the Toyota Vios, Toyota Corolla, Honda City, Honda Civic, Nissan Sylphy, and Mazda3. “We want to see first how this is received by the market,” said Steven Tagle. Of course, these volume sellers promise massive potential. The FS100 range will fit 14- and 15-inch wheel, the most common original wheel sizes for the compact vehicles.
Aside from smaller cars, PAEC has simultaneously released Firestone tires for large commercial vehicles. “Six wheelers, buses — they’re segments where Bridgestone is losing out to China brands and smuggled tires,” lamented Steven Tagle, who also shared that at one point, Bridgestone had cornered 70% of that market but eventually lost ground because it was unfairly undercut by competition. PAEC is now also studying the feasibility of releasing SUV tire products in the near future, which the executive considers the “biggest market” in the industry.
In a largely price-sensitive market, Firestone is seeking to get ahead of the competition through its aforementioned name recall and Bridgestone ties — in addition to unique value propositions pertaining to heightened performance and durability. Its price index relative to Bridgestone hovers at around 75%, and PAEC is hoping this affordability will make the brand doubly attractive to car owners looking at replacing their tires.
Authorized Bridgestone dealers nationwide now carry Firestone FS100 touring tires:
Alpha Performance (Marikina City), FB Ladao (Quezon City), AutoActive (Quezon City), Tire Wizard (Pasig City), Garage Plus (San Juan City), MBBCI (Muntinlupa City), Gatchalian Tan (Parañaque City)
Yormine (Rizal), Jocar (Bulacan), Windtunnel (Pampanga, Clark), GNS (Pangasinan, Dagupan), Motorhub (Nueva Ecija), Transworld (Ilocos), LSIT (Batangas), Towerking/Tirestar (Batangas), Serapio (Bicol), Legazpi Tire Depot (Bicol), Alpha One (Cavite), Bethro (Quezon Province)
Highway Tire Supply (Bacolod City), Buen Viaje Tire Corp. (Iloilo City)
Le Tires (Koronadal), Le Tires (General Santos City), Mega Wheels Center (Pagadian City), Lomex Car (Iligan City), Echo Wheels Marketing (Butuan City), Mega Ultra Sales (Surigao City)