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Tyre firm aiming for slow inflation

First Stop, the Bridgestone-backed fast-fit tyre programme, is looking to forge new relationships with independent service garages as it strives to grow its network.

The tyre giant plans to increase the number of First Stop outlets from 149 to 240 by 2008, helping to increase sales and up its share of the market by eight to 12 per cent.

Open points include the Midlands and the North-west but the group is looking to increase coverage across its other territories in the North-east, South-west and South- east. The programme is running ahead of schedule after signing up two retailers in the Midlands and Wales, but Andy Lane, marketing manager, says growth must be long- term because rapid growth could endanger the network's stability.

It doesn't cost anything to join the scheme but members have to make a commitment to purchase 2,400 tyres a year from the company. Money raised goes into a fund to subsidise signage, marketing material, training and events.

The latest additions to the network are Silverline Wheels and Tyres in Warwick and Harris Brothers in Swansea.

Silverline specialises in tyres for sports cars and off-road vehicles, while Harris Brothers specialises in tyres, batteries and exhaust systems.

The move is part of a wider program by Bridgestone to invest £275m to build sales in Europe. The finance, to be provided by the Japan-based Bridgestone Corporation, will be used in a sales push targeted at lifting passenger car tyre sales by up to 15 per cent by 2008.

The funding is mainly aimed at doubling car tyre production at the company's factory Poznan, in Poland, as well as lifting truck and bus tyre production by 30 per cent at its Spanish plant at Bilbao.

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