To celebrate two years behind the wheel of one of the pioneering tyre brands in the world, we got the chance to catch up with Darren Hayes-Powell, who’s been Group Managing Director of Goodyear South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa since November 2017.
Goodyear South Africa have had a presence in the country since before the last century was in its teenage years. From as early as 1912 they were importing tyres and in 1945, they opened their own manufacturing plant to keep up with the demand for safe and reliable tyres. Over a century later the business is still a pioneer in its industry, a powerful and respected name and a keen market innovator.
KEEPING THE PACE
South Africa’s automotive market is an all-out race of intense competition, where businesses are having to implement new technologies, formulate new strategies, assimilate new market analytic data and make decisions while keeping the accelerator pedal pressed hard. This was the exact environment that Darren Hayes-Powell, Group Managing Director of Goodyear South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, entered into when he took over the steering wheel in November 2017 and planted his foot firmly on that pedal.
“It was an exhilarating time to take the role,” he reveals, “But I was confident in my local team’s ability to meet the tasks ahead and I was fully prepared to start at a sprint.”
In all fairness, he was already accustomed to the blistering pace of Goodyear’s managerial circle. Having spent twenty-five years working with Rolls Royce, he entered Goodyear in 2008 as Finance and IT Director for the United Kingdom. He then became Vice President of Finance for Asia, then Vice President of Operations and Technology Finance before taking on his current assignment almost exactly two years ago.
“My international experience and thorough understanding of Goodyear’s strategy and culture put me in a good position to deliver the strategies for South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. But even then, it was still a learning curve.”
THE MAN FOR THE JOB
However, in the same way that Goodyear’s reputation for keeping all four tyres on the road (innovations involving flying cars aside), Darren has a reputation for being sure footed and always having a plan. For his entire career, Darren has consistently been an all-rounder. He studied to be a Mechanical Engineer and an accountant before going on to complete a Master’s in Business Administration.
This, coupled with a great passion for business turnaround strategies, has equipped him with the great ability to see the situation for what it is, the clear headedness to gain a clear understanding of what needs to be done, and the charisma and leadership qualities to motivate a team to do it.
As an example, when Darren joined Goodyear in 2008, the UK operating company was operating at a loss and he responded, undauntedly by supporting turning things around. After which he was tested again with a transfer to Asia with its fast pace market development, initially to support the new factory build in Pulandian which has become one of the best performing plants within the Goodyear organisation. Darren was later called upon to do this again with another new manufacturing plant in Mexico in 2015.
It would seem that Darren’s career has been defined by leading through example, often managing several high responsibility roles simultaneously, motivating entire teams and taking in large amounts of coffee to aid his out of the box thinking. He explains his successes quite simply: “Goodyear is a great international family, comprised of fantastic teams working together and working hard. I don’t believe there is such a thing as a one-man success story.”
TWO YEARS IN
So, now almost two years to the date since Darren joined the Goodyear South Africa team, what are his thoughts about the industry so far?
According to him, the South African tyre manufacturing sector in general is of a high standard with local producers all focusing their efforts on meeting the growing demands of the high-paced vehicle manufacturing sector. With this in mind, he believes that Goodyear does possess an edge over their competitors because their tyres are specifically designed for South African conditions, such as the swift dispersion of water in wet weather, efficient low rolling resistance technology and off-the-road performance.
“South Africa and Sub Saharan Africa are known for their intense climates,” he says, “And our tyres are manufactured to take into account all the variables of weather and road conditions.”
The custom creation of bespoke solutions for different markets is written into Goodyear’s DNA, however it was epitomised shortly after Darren joined with the upgraded and state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Uitenhage. Goodyear invested close to 1 billion Rand (£52M) in the Eastern Cape facility to improve the ability to produce high technology capable passenger tyres to meet the market’s demands.
“The investment equipped the plant with the latest technologies and processes, as well as increased local production capacity for high complex, technical tyres,” he says. “It positioned Goodyear as a leader in the creation of low rolling resistant tyres that promote fuel economy in vehicles together with the latest technology SUV and 4×4 tyres,” Darren explained.
It has also made Goodyear capable of implementing new technologies and strategies over the proceeding years and into the future. Yet again, putting their customers first.
The move followed similar investment in Goodyear’s new production facilities in China and Mexico, with all three plants now sporting the same high-technology equipment aimed at producing premium tyres to a uniform world standard. Such as when it comes to wheel balancing and uniformity, which with the rising number of larger tyre sizes and more intricate vehicles is a critical market factor.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Goodyear tyres are prepared to meet obstacles on the road ahead, likewise, over his many years in the company, Darren has identified some areas in the industry that may have gone overlooked in the past.
It is evident that South Africa is a great market that is continuously benefitting from a well-developed infrastructure and a progressive local tyre industry operating on global standards. The retail edge of the market is exciting, modern and stylish and helps make potential buyers far more aware of the importance of fitting reputable tyres. Combining this with an equally developed commercial market has created an energetic environment to operate as a manufacturer of premium tyres.
However, despite this, Darren has seen a distressing trend of unsafe second-hand tyres being sold into the market. Historically, South Africa has a high road accident rate which is a result of a number of different factors, but sub-standard tyres fitted to vehicles is only making things worse. Also, most drivers probably don’t realise the problem as they’ve purchased these tyres from an unlicensed dealer who they probably trust.
“The more the consumer knows about the importance of their tyres, the safer our roads will be,” Darren says, “Educating all drivers on the perils of using worn-unsafe tyres will only improve the situation and reduce fatalities on our roads. Frankly, this is not only a South African concern.”
EDUCATION AND ENTERTAINMENT
Of course, educating consumers is no simple matter. The importance of explaining to drivers they should buy quality and safe tyres is not a simple one, the trick is bringing innovative, exciting products to the market that offer clear and long- term benefits to both their status and safety.
“For example, the new Wrangler, All Terrain Adventure tyre is produced with Kevlar and designed specifically for South African and Sub Saharan roads, protecting the tyres against side wall damage but also off road travelling and potholes. Creating a universal capable tyre.”
He goes onto explain that these sorts of developments enable the majority of consumers to appreciate the long-term value of purchasing premium tyres. It is a strategy that enables them to innovate for their current customers and introduce their products to potential ones.
Darren points out, that while most people probably buy tyres because they are told their cars need them, others are probably more concerned about how cool the tyres look rather than how safe they are. “So, it is therefore our responsibility to make sure that the tyres are both,” concludes Darren.
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