Eric Higgs shares his views of the tire industry with an emphasis on customer support and future trends.
Eric Higgs is a veteran of the tire industry. With almost two decades of global marketing and leadership experience under his belt, he was appointed Vice President of Marketing, for Commercial group, U.S. and Canada, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations (BATO) in 2016. Within two years, he was promoted within the company to President, Truck, Bus and Retread Tires.
When it comes to the tire industry, Higgs believes good customer service is vital. “Throughout my career, I’ve learned that the tie that binds all industries is commitment to the customer,” he says. “For Canada specifically, my team and I have the privilege of supporting a strong network of dealers, working with them to provide products that consider the diverse and challenging weather and road conditions that our Canadian fleets must combat, each and every day.”
Autonomous trucks & retreads
While he’s focused on supporting today’s fleets, Higgs knows tire manufacturers must prepare for a future that might well be very different from the status quo. “The future of the commercial truck tire market will be more autonomous, as autonomy and electrification will be some of the biggest drivers in new tire development and technology that move the industry forward,” he explains.
While some of us may not immediately see the connection between driverless trucks and retreads, to Higgs the two are natural bedfellows. “Without variations in driver behaviour, tires will likely wear more evenly, and casings could conceivably last the entire life of an autonomous truck when coupled with retreads.”
One of the areas of growing concern, Higgs says, is the increased adoption of ultra-low-cost import tires, which inevitably squeeze margins and put pressure on retread sales. That said, Higgs believes tire retailers can effectively combat this trend.
“Commercial tire dealers and manufacturers have the opportunity to highlight the greater value proposition of premium tire and retread combinations and demonstrate how this combination can improve tire performance expectations,” he explains. “Dealers should work to shift the perception of tires from a transactional purchase to a true business asset—one that creates business value.”
Higgs believes this approach will help build trust and loyalty between dealers and customers by demonstrating to a fleet that their dealer understands their business and can recommend the best products, technologies and services to meet their needs for the long term. “The industry has moved beyond simple sales transactions,” he adds. “Service is the difference maker for customers today. Being a true business partner and delivering to customers on long-term promises cannot be overlooked.
Tire management solutions
By harnessing the power of telematics, Higgs believes tire retailers can fundamentally change the way they do business, and the way they are perceived by the customer.
“Fleets are expressing a desire to understand the performance of their entire vehicle—including tires—to predict maintenance needs, avoid downtime and operate as efficiently as possible,” he explains. “To meet this changing need, tire retailers should be focused on providing full tire management solutions to help customers manage the tire across its lifecycle. Retailers and dealers must be prepared to provide insights and actionable analytics that help fleets get the most out of their investment.
“At the end of the day, it’s not enough to just provide a tire. Retailers have a responsibility to help customers understand how they can track those assets, monitor pressure, tread depths and provide a comprehensive solution.”