It is now a year and a half since Continental acquired the leading UK retreader, Bandvulc, and twelve months since Continental management announced their integration plans to the market at a press conference in London. We therefore took the opportunity to meet with Bandvulc’s Group Commercial Director, Phil West to discuss the progress of the integration process and what we can expect to see from the Ivybridge based retreader during 2018.
One thing which is seems particularly clear to most market observers is the exceptional cultural fit between Continental and Bandvulc, and this is something which West is happy to reiterate. “The integration process has been excellent,” he confirmed. “The process has exceeded expectation, both financially and socially. As such, all projects set have been met and exceeded.”
The success of the integration project has been illustrated by the fact that the integration team was able to scoop top prize in the “For One Another” category at the ContiTireAwards in February this year. This particular award rewards teamwork within the Continental organisation, and in winning the award, the Bandvulc integration team were able to beat off opposition from around the world.
Typical of the success achieved since the acquisition is the decision made by Continental to appoint Bandvulc as the sole distributor for the Uniroyal brand in the UK. “The take-off from dealers for the new brand has been well received,” confirmed West. “We have exceeded our sales targets by some way, and as a result we’ve had to set new benchmarks for this year.”
According to West the additional of Uniroyal and the integration into a brand ladder, which allows the company to offer three levels of product under Premium+, Quality+ and Economy+ labels, has been an excellent move. However, he is keen to point out that Bandvulc’s primary focus remains on developing sales of the premium Continental brand.
“We are not just talking about tyres,” said West. “We are talking about a wide range of products and services across multiple sectors, Having the Continental brand is allowing us to achieve vertical integration across more sectors than was previously the case – e.g. fork lifts, cars etc. The aim is to continue to grow the brand and fleet penetration is the key.”
With this in mind, a number of integration processes have been applied. Last January Bandvulc MD Arthur Gregg confirmed that the company saw substantial opportunities in aligning and integrating the Conti 360 and BV Plus+ fleet networks, particularly as both networks use the same service providers. West points out that all Continental 360 services have now been integrated at Ivybridge including the company’s 24-hour call out service. “it’s about improving customer service,” he commented. “Speed is the new currency.”
West also confirmed that significant work is ongoing with regards to network development and that 2018 will see the introduction of a new branded network in the UK.
Significant integration has also taken place in the area of casing collection and retread production. All Continental casings have been coming into Ivybridge for some time now. However, March/April will see all retread production for UK finally being integrated into the UK plant, which, according to West has an undefined capacity in the region of 15-20,000 tyres per month. Investment plans announced by Gregg this time last year have also been completed including the addition of a new robot in the manufacturing plant. “The access to increased automation is one of the key integration activities,” said West, “and this is enhancing our manufacturing process on an ongoing basis.”
The integration of Bandvulc into the Continental Group is also expected to result in some gains for Bandvulc in terms of overseas sales. “Bandvulc has some unique product lines such as our well-known Wastemaster tyre, which offers us excellent opportunities to increase our penetration into different overseas markets. We will certainly see growth in other countries and we know have the opportunity to also access pan-European fleets, but our route to market is now via a different channel than it would have been before the acquisition,” concluded West.