Stamford Tyres Malaysia Gears Up to Expand Falken’s Footprint

There have been rumours for quite some time that Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd (SRI) is going to terminate the exclusive distribution of Falken Tyres’ agreement with Stamford Tyres. Meeting up with Yoshihiro Miyagawa, Managing Director, Sumitomo Rubber Asia (Tyre) Pte Ltd, and Conson Tiu Sia, Chief Executive Officer, Stamford Tyres Malaysia, who have just recently taken on their respective new positions provided a good opportunity, not only to clear the air, but to find out more about the goals, direction and strategies of both companies regarding Falken tyres. 

“Our relationship with Stamford Tyres started in 1975, and has grown beyond the traditional vendor-distributor relationship in order to co-create value. SRI and Stamford Tyres set up a joint venture sales company in China in 2003.  In 2009, Stamford Tyres was appointed as distributor of Falken tyres in South Africa and in Southern African countries. In September, 2010, SRI acquired a 1.8 per cent stake in Singapore-based Stamford Tyres Corporation. The amount of stock is not big, but it demonstrated SRI’s commitment to this long-term business relationship, and SRI attends the Annual General Meeting (AGM)”  

Miyagawa continued that Stamford Tyres sold its minority stake in the China joint venture sales company to SRI in March 2012. Then, in August 2012, Sumitomo Rubber Asia teamed up again with Stamford Tyres to form another joint venture sales company, Falken Tyres India Private Limited (FTI) in order to distribute Falken tyres in India. SRI holds a 60 per cent stake, while Stamford Tyres holds the remaining 40 per cent. 

“SRI and Stamford Tyres have been working hand-in-hand through both the good times and the tough as partners. The relationship has been constantly growing in strength for nearly 45 years,” he added.

Eyes for the ultra-high performance tyre segment 

The Malaysian market, he stressed, is always important for Sumitomo, as Malaysia is amongst the top 3 countries in Southeast Asia that have the biggest car ownership besides Thailand and Indonesia. Apart from normal passenger car tyres, Miyagawa sees potential in ultra-high performance, 4X4 and SUV segments. 

“The current trend is going big on rim size and the diameter of tyres. Unlike Japan, which is a stagnant market, Malaysia is still growing. There could be 150-200 brands in the Malaysian tyre market, and as much as 50 percent of the market is occupied by the non-branded tyres. As Falken has grown to become a flagship brand that focuses on ultra-high performance tyres, our target in Malaysia and this region is to further grow our presence in the ultra-high tyre performance segment, as well as in SUVs and 4x4s.  To do that, we need to expand our network for better visibility and availability.”  

What about the Original Equipment (OE) segment? Miyagawa replied that SRI has been OE supplier to a variety of major international automotive manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, VW, Audi, Nissan, Subaru, Nissan, and many more in Japan and other overseas markets. “OE is important as it helps to build long term branding. Yes, we are interested in the segment, and we are currently looking into the OE tyre fitment for Japanese and national cars in the Malaysian market.”

Conson pointed out that besides Falken, SRI manufactures and sells tyres under the Dunlop brand name in many countries, including Japan, certain regions of Asia and South Africa.

“I would say it is the positioning. Dunlop is positioned as the OE brand while Falken is for the replacement market. It is only in recent years that SRI has started to venture into the OE segment in Europe and USA.”

Conson succeeded Cham Soon Kian as the new Chief Executive Officer, who moved to his new role as Chief Operating Officer, Stamford Tyres Group of Companies in September 2019. 

“I had been working behind the scenes with Miyagawa before I officially came on board. Miyagawa has come out with best practices on wholesaling, which we had modified and adapted gradually. We both agreed that it is important to further expand our footprint in the local market.” 

He admitted that the local tyre market is very competitive. The dumping of Chinese tyres to Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, has been going on for many years after the US imposed anti-dumping duties on Chinese tyres. In fact, he said, the market has not only been stormed by multiple tyre brands from China, but also from neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, just to name a few. In addition to this, tyre sales have struggled as buying habits are changing.  

 “The industry has been badly affected by consumers believing that newly manufactured tyres are better in performance. Dealers ask for discounts on tyres that were produced 6 months ago, and it has also affected the tyre supply chain, as supplier have had to tighten their inventory control and hold as little inventory as possible. In addition, dealers are constantly expanding demands for same and next-day delivery. All these trends call for a transformation in business model.”

As a subsidiary of a Singapore based public listed company, Stamford Tyres Malaysia offers quality products, value added marketing and training for its dealers. Falken is produced by SRI, one of the top largest tyre manufacturers in the world. With 11 global tyre manufacturing facilities and significant investment in research and development (R&D), the company stresses that the Falken brand demonstrates SRI’s commitment in delivering quality products through continual innovation. This includes the capability of designing tyres that can perform best in Malaysian applications, road conditions and climate. 

“We pride ourselves for being able to provide ‘made- in-Japan’ products at a competitive price, as made- in-Japan has become a byword for industrial quality and reliability,” said Conson.

“Unlike the parallel distributors that have focused solely on making profit, Stamford Tyres Malaysia invests in brand building and educating its business associates,” he added. “Our dealers benefit from our marketing activities such as signages, roadshows and promotional materials that help to increase Falken brand awareness. We also provide them with product knowledge and relevant soft skill training.” 

Conson’s immediate focus is to increase brand visibility and availability in the domestic market by expanding its footprint, starting from the southern region up to the northern region of Peninsular Malaysia. “We are looking at developing more direct dealing, which we believe will give us better feedback on our products and branding. This also means that we are in the process of increasing our salesforce,” he explained. 

As for new products, Conson said, the company does plan to introduce a new tyre pattern in the second quarter of next year. However, he continued, this would subject to the market situation. 

“If the market is not promising, it is always more sensible to prolong the current product life cycle and market presence. Bringing a new product to market is fraught with unknowns and uncertainties, sales are low and costs are high during the early introduction stage. ”

As we ended the interview, Conson emphasised that Stamford Tyres are committed in building sustainable business relationships, not trading relationships, with its vendors as well as its dealers and resellers.

大马添福胶胎蓄势待发拓展飞劲版图

有关住友橡胶株式会社(SRI)即将终止与添福胶胎独家飞劲经销权的谣言,已经在坊间流传了好些时日,而且还传得沸沸扬扬。此时能够与新任住友橡胶亚洲(轮胎)私人有限公司董事经理宫川义宏(Yoshihiro Miyagawa)和马来西亚添福胶胎新任首席执行员Conson Tiu Sia碰面,真是个难能可贵的机会,不仅能一探谣言的虚实,还能从中了解更多这两家公司对飞劲轮胎的目标、方向及策略。

“我们与添福胶胎的关系始于1975年,并已成长和俨然超越传统的供应商与分销商关系,共同创建价值。住友橡胶株式会社和添福胶胎曾于2003年在中国一同设立合资销售公司。2009年,添福胶胎被委任为飞劲轮胎在南非和非洲南部国家的经销商。2010年9月,住友橡胶株式会社收购了新加坡添福胶胎股份有限公司1.8%的股权。虽然所持有的股权不大,却足以表现出住友橡胶株式会社对此长期业务关系的承诺,而且住友橡胶株式会社都会出席添福胶胎的股东常年大会。”

宫川义宏续说,2012年3月,添福胶胎将其中国合资销售公司的少数股权出让给住友橡胶株式会社。然后,在2012年8月,亚洲住友橡胶再次与添福胶胎合作,成立了另一家合资销售公司—飞劲轮胎印度私人有限公司(FTI),以便在印度分销飞劲轮胎。住友橡胶株式会社持有这家公司60%的股权,而剩下的40%则为添福胶胎所持有。

“住友橡胶株式会社和添福胶胎作为合作伙伴,一同携手共创辉煌也走过风雨。我们近45年的业务关系不断成长和增强。”他补充。

着眼于高性能轮胎细分市场

他强调说,马来西亚市场对住友很重要,因为马来西亚是除了泰国与印尼外,在东南亚排名前三名,拥有最大汽车拥有量的国家。宫川义宏在轿车轮胎之外,看到大马高性能、四驱车及休旅车(SUV)细分市场的发展潜能。

“在当前汽车轮辋的尺寸不断加大的趋势下,轮胎的大小也相对提高。不同于日本轮胎市场停滞不前,马来西亚轮胎市场仍在增长。在马来西亚的轮胎市场中有着150至200种不同的品牌,而非名牌的轮胎则占了市场的50%。随着飞劲增长成为聚焦于高性能轮胎的旗舰品牌,我们在马来西亚市场的目标就是进一步提高我们在高性能轮胎、四驱车及休旅车领域的知名度。为了实现这点,我们需要扩展我们的网络,以达到更好的可见度和供应。”

原装配备(OEM)方面又如何?宫川义宏回答说,住友橡胶株式会社是各种主要国际汽车制造商如马赛地、保时捷、大众、奥迪、斯巴鲁、日产等在日本和海外市场的原装配备轮胎供应商。“原装配备很重要,因为它协助我们建立起长期的品牌知名度。是的,我们确实对此领域充满兴趣,并开始着眼于马来西亚的日本和国产车原装配备轮胎市场。”

Conson指出除了飞劲,住友橡胶株式会社还制造南洛轮胎,并在许多国家如日本、亚洲一些区域及南非销售该品牌。

Conson于2019年9月正式接替詹训建成为新任首席执行员,而詹训建则成为添福胶胎集团公司首席营运长。

“我在未正式接棒前,其实一直在幕后与宫川义宏一起工作。宫川义宏提出了有关批发业务的最佳做法,而我们做了一些修改,并正在逐步适应这些做法。我们彼此都同意进一步拓展我们在本地市场的版图。”

他承认,本地的市场非常竞争。自美国对中国轮胎采取反倾销措施后,中国轮胎大举涌入东南亚市场(包括马来西亚)已经有很多年了。他说,事实上,马来西亚市场除了各种中国轮胎品牌,也面对着其他来自邻国如泰国、印尼、越南、印度等轮胎品牌的冲击。而购买行为的改变,也导致轮胎销售竞争剧烈。

“消费者相信‘刚出炉’的新轮胎拥有较好性能的看法,对整个轮胎业造成巨大影响。代理商会对6个月前制造的轮胎向我们要求折扣,这也同时影响了轮胎供应链,因为供应商必须严格控制库存,存货越少越好。此外,有越来越多的代理要求同一天和隔天送货。这些趋势都在呼吁企业转型。”

具价格竞争力的日本制造产品

马来西亚添福胶胎,作为新加坡上市公司的子公司为其代理提供优质产品、具有附加值的行销及培训。飞劲是由世界最大的顶级轮胎制造商之一的住友橡胶株式会社制造。该公司在全球拥有11家制造厂,并在研发方面做了巨大投资。马来西亚添福强调,飞劲品牌展现了住友橡胶株式会社通过持续创新提供优质产品的承诺,这包括设计出最适合马来西亚应用、路况及天气的轮胎。

“我们为能够提供具价格竞争力的‘日本制造’产品而自豪,因为日本制造的产品已经成为工业品质和可靠性的表征。”Conson说。

“不同于只是专注于获取利润的平行经销商,马来西亚添福胶胎投资于品牌建立和教育其商业伙伴。”他补充。“我们的代理将受益于我们的行销活动如招牌、路秀及促销材料等,协助他们推广飞劲轮胎的品牌。我们也为他们提供产品知识和相关的软技能培训。”

Conson的当务之急是通过拓展其版图,从马来西亚半岛的南马区向上延伸至北马区,提高飞劲品牌在本地市场的可见度和供应。“我们计划发展更多的直接交易,我们相信这样做能为我们提供更好的产品反馈和品牌推广。这也意味着我们正在扩充我们的销售团队。 ”他解释。

至于新产品,他表示,公司计划在明年第二季推出新轮胎。然而,他继续,这要按市场的情况而定。

“如果市场低迷,延长现有产品的生命周期和市场知名度比较明智。引进新产品充满未知和不确定性,在最初的导入期,销售量低成本又高。”

在我们结束此次的访谈之际,Conson强调说,添福胶胎立志与其供应商、代理商及转销商建立可持续性的商业关系,而不是贸易关系。