Category Archives: Industry Regulation

Pharmaceutical Price Points – Pricing the EpiPen

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Marketing Case Study: Pharmaceutical Price Points – Pricing the EpiPen

Todd Benschneider – University of South Florida – Dr. James Stock

June 29, 2017

 

Introduction

Mylan Pharmaceuticals gained front page notoriety in 2016 for its part in sweeping allegations of price gouging and Medicaid abuses among large pharmaceutical companies. Consumer backlash to the rising costs of healthcare fueled a hailstorm of media attention, spotlighting Mylan’s unprecedented price inflation of several older generic drugs. The Mylan product at the forefront of the debate was the EpiPen; an emergency treatment device that assists patients in self-administering adrenaline (epinephrine) during severe allergic reactions. The device had grown into a household brand over the 30 years since its introduction and EpiPen’s brand loyalty provided the foundations for one of the industry’s most successful, and now most questionable, brand revitalization campaigns ever launched.  The marketing vision began in 2007 when Mylan Pharmaceuticals purchased the rights to the EpiPen brand inside a $6.6 billion packaged deal of 434 generic drugs from Merck Pharmaceuticals. Shortly after the acquisition, Mylan began increasing prices by increments of 10% per quarter until the EpiPen’s price had grown by over 600% in ten years that followed (Darden).

 

Mylan management defends the increases, claiming to have invested over $20 million in product and distribution chain improvements since acquiring the product (Koons). The firm’s executives cite that former owner Merck’s initial price of $94 per package generated a comparatively low 8.9% net profit in 2007. Defendants of the price increases also argue that price adjustments were necessary to create a sustainable supply chain of the lifesaving medicine (Lee).

 

The combined sum of those arguments were unable to pacify the critics after an investigative report by Ben Popkin of NBC news revealed that “from 2007 to 2015, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch’s total compensation went from $2,453,456 to $18,931,068, a 671 percent increase. During the same period, the company raised EpiPen prices, with the average wholesale price going from $56.64 to $317.82 per pen, a 461 percent increase, according to data provided by Connecture.” In a historical pricing perspective of the brand, Bresch’s salary increases alone increased the cost of manufacturing the EpiPen by nearly $5 per package; which, when contrasted to Merck’s original pricing, would have cost the product nearly its entire profit margin. The attention garnered by the compensation of CEO Bresch, along with the observation that over 40% of Mylan’s annual profits were now being generated by the EpiPen price increases, compounded Mylan’s public relations woes as a symbol of management’s greed, drawing nationwide criticism on executive pay excess and pharmaceutical anti-trust laws (Bastick).

 

Today Mylan has arrived at a strategic crossroads in its marketing vision. The firm’s 90% market share of epinephrine injectors will certainly be jeopardized if revised pricing fails to satisfy expectations of corporate responsibility, and the potential loss of the EpiPen market could cost stakeholders $847 million in annual earnings (Ubel). In addition, the brand collapse would generate a multi-billion dollar capital value loss of resale value of the brand. Since EpiPen’s patents will soon expire, Mylan’s original plan to sell off the division for a fast profit would be hampered by the devaluation of the EpiPen brand name, rendering the manufacturing facilities, goodwill and marketing capital worthless to prospective buyers.

 

Background

Unlike other pharmaceutical structure pricing bands, the EpiPen injector pricing was relative to the mechanical engineering patents contained within its dosing syringe system, rather than the chemistry of its medicine. The generic hormone solution inside the applicator has been widely available for years at prices less than $2 per dose; however, the precision, spring-loaded application syringes cost approximately $35 to manufacture. Critics claim that excessive marketing spending under Mylan’s management inflated the total cost to manufacture, market and distribute the device, from $80 to as much as $450 per package (Popkin). EpiPen had enjoyed a unique advantage in the drug market, because its mechanical design the EpiPen had been protected through engineering patents which were outside the pharmaceutical anti-trust regulations of the FDA (Darden). In addition, the arrival of new entrants to the market had been limited by the historically low profits earned by these injection devices (Lee).

 

 

The patents alone however, did not allow for a market domination, Pfizer had patented a rival product, the Adrenaclick, which was released for exclusive distribution through Wal-Mart in 2010. The new entrant, however, faltered due to limited brand awareness and its restrictive distribution exclusivity to Wal-Mart stores. In two years following its introduction, Adrenaclick failed to capture more than a 7% market share, despite selling at a price point of 1/3rd that of the EpiPens. In 2012 the maker of Adrenaclick sold off its manufacturing equipment and the product temporarily left the market, under the assumption that the timing was not right to continue challenging the EpiPen for market share (Bastick). Internationally EpiPen competed against a French rival the “Auvi-Q” which was sold in Europe at around $100 per package; however, Auvi-Q initially chose not to apply for U.S. distribution due to possible U.S. patent overlaps with some of EpiPen’s design. The continued existence of this international competition in the injector market remains the driving force behind why EpiPen prices in Europe have remained near their original 2007 prices, at around 1/5th the price of EpiPens sold in the U.S.

 

Much of Merck’s pre-2007 decisions for U.S. price points near the $100 mark were justified by the international price competition of the French Auvi-Q. Merck management believed that if U.S. market profits grew too lucrative, that Auvi-Q would challenge its U.S. patent rights, generating a legal battle that would cost years of EpiPen’s profits along the way. In addition to Auvi-Q, a new rival was introduced to the U.S. market in 2005 named Twinject which was marketed at a lower price point, at the time, than the $90 EpiPen. With pricing influenced by anticipated market competition of 2007,  the 25 year old EpiPen line had been generating less than $17 million in profits from about $200 million in sales. Even Mylan executives had initially planned to spin off the EpiPen line from its new portfolio purchased in the Merck deal (Koons). However, CEO Heather Bresch saw a golden opportunity for the product and persuaded the board of directors to use EpiPen as a sample case for the future marketing of its generic brands. Mylan took on a revitalization marketing campaign and set its sights on capitalizing on the remaining untapped profits from its captive mechanical syringe market (Koons).

 

Pricing the EpiPen was a great challenge, since strategies in drug pricing are deeply complex; pharmaceutical makers are faced with a more complicated marketing landscape than manufacturers of retail goods. Prices for the same drug can vary widely from one country to the next, for example an EpiPen is priced in Great Britain at $69, in Germany at $190 and in the U.S. at $600. This variation among pricing processes reflects the complexities of distributing a product to meet a variety of competitors and price-influencing criteria in each market. For example in the U.S. the FDA along with private insurers utilize a market driven price allowance, in the spirit of capitalism, a drug maker can charge nearly any price for its products, a policy that is intended to draw new entrants into the market and drive prices down and quality up. In comparison, many European countries require an approved “reference pricing model”, which dictates the fair insurance reimbursement value of a drug is based on the costs of its alternatives. Some countries such as France include negotiable “price band” restrictions that cap the maximum price the drug can be sold at as an allowable percentage over the lowest price which the company sells the drug in other nations. Because of these price regulations some pharmaceutical firms choose not to distribute their products in highly regulated markets such as France and Switzerland (Rankin).

In 2009, the anticipated arrival of new entrants to the market became a reality when French rival Auvi-Q applied for North American distribution. Auvi-Q was expected to challenge EpiPens U.S. patent rights; however, Auvi-Q withdrew from the U.S. market entry after a series of safety recalls crippled their brand’s market value, they too believed the timing was not optimal to challenge the EpiPen for market share. Bresch’s strategy flourished by the subsequent delay of new competitors to the market and EpiPen found a growing market, even at much higher prices. The CEO’s belief was, that through an increased profitability of the mature market, Mylan had created an incentive for competitors to join with their own rival products in the final years remaining, until 2025, when the EpiPen patents would expire. The resulting lucrative margins created by the new higher prices would provide an improved resale market for the EpiPen division or the future licensing of its technology (Koons).

 

Mylan expected that the new players in the market would quickly drive EpiPen prices back to near its original $90 per package through price wars. During the eight year period of price increases, EpiPens previously stalled sales volume, even grew by 67%.  Mylan had successfully expanded the existing market by lobbying for revisions to school medical restrictions which had prevented school staff from administering the shots to students in emergencies. With the restrictions lifted, Mylan further lobbied for tax subsidies to donate free EpiPens to schools, increasing goodwill and lowering corporate tax burden by $600 per package rather than the $100 per package deduction which would have been captured in the previous price formula. The theoretically deductible donations allowed Mylan to pay an effective 20% U.S. corporate income tax rate in 2015, saving it nearly $100 million in tax liabilities (Lee).

 

Bresch’s short-term strategy was directed at harvesting larger profits in the U.S. market through price increases, brand recognition and distribution expansion for several years until competitors could mobilize new products. From Bresch’s long term perspective, once that competition arrived to the market, Mylan could sell off the EpiPen brand and its soon expiring patent protection to the new competitors. However, in the eight years that followed the campaign launch, the anticipated competitive price pressure never materialized, as both Auvi-Q and Twinject suffered public relations problems and financial difficulties during the recession which caused both competitors to withdraw from the U.S. market by 2014. Capitalizing on the limited competition, Mylan increased prices by about 10% per quarter per year, gradually bringing the price from $90 per pair of EpiPens to over $600 per pair.

 

Alternatives

Mylan executives forecasted the introduction of EpiPen rivals by 2010, however the recession and other unforeseen regulatory factors delayed the arrival of that competition by nearly a decade. Bresch defends Mylan’s aggressive pricing strategy, justifying the tactics by capitalizing on the opportunity to harvest an additional $600 million per year in profits for every year that competition failed to materialize. Executives such as Bresch could claim a fiduciary obligation to the investors to exploit market gaps for shareholder gain and to pad the company cash reserves to fund new drug products (Koons).

 

In addition, Mylan leadership claims that they did not believe that they were creating a public safety crisis of affordability, because the allergic reactions could be just as effectively treated with an economical alternative which utilizes a $2 syringe and $5 vial of epinephrine. They pointed to the low switching costs of those alternatives and pointed to the examples of emergency responders that had converted back to dosing patients from syringes in addition to the arrival of free clinics which guided the uninsured on the creation of their own emergency kits for a fraction of the cost of a preloaded EpiPen (Rankin).

 

Mylan’s leadership could not have reasonably anticipated the market’s reluctance to self-dose from conventional syringes. Bresch initially believed that the primary competitive advantages envisioned for the EpiPen were limited to small children who could not administer epinephrine through syringes and to schools which were only protected from legal liability by using the EpiPen or an approved similar device (Koons). Regardless of price, consumer’s fear of incorrect dosing or injecting air into their bloodstream stalled the advancement of self-administered syringes (Bastick). The media scrutiny chose not to address that the EpiPen price should have little effect on affordable healthcare since it is viewed by medical practitioners as a simple convenience, rather than a medical necessity (Lee).

 

The lack of mounting competition for the past decade could not have been foreseen by management either, as three attempts at injector market entry by other firms failed due to poor timing or marketing. The introduction of a generic EpiPen competitor by Israeli firm Teva Pharmaceuticals was also denied by the FDA in 2016 further diffusing competitive influences. However, in late June of 2017, the FDA approved the next major player in the epinephrine injection market, Adamis Pharmaceuticals introduced their own injector under the brand name “Symjepi” a cheaper alternative to Mylan’s EpiPen, but expected to price higher the Adrenaclick (Bastick). Auvi-Q has also been approved to market their rival injector beginning in 2017 and Adrenaclick and Twinject have announced their returns to the market.

In response to consumer backlash and the coming arrival of generic substitutes, Mylan has announced that it will release a generic version of the EpiPen priced at around $300 per package of two. Analysts suspect that Mylan will continue to donate the EpiPen brand version to schools for a write off of $600 per package to maintain their tax savings and continue to promote the EpiPen brand to those whose insurance allows for brand name premiums. Despite the announcement, Mylan has not been quick to launch the distribution of its half priced generic alternative (Bastick).

 

Proposed Solution

The arrival of the new competitors, the aging patents, along with the media scrutiny makes a clear case for drastically reducing the EpiPen price. It stands to reason that competition among new firms will drive prices back down to the mid-$100’s per package or possibly even lower by 2025. The inevitable loss of EpiPen’s mechanical patent protection will soon render the brand’s competitive advantages obsolete. The EpiPen brand appears to have run its lifecycle and while the marketing tactics of Bresch succeeded at capturing an astounding quantity of remaining value from the brand; a change of course is needed to salvage the remains of Mylan’s public image and diffuse additional conflicts with lawmakers. The negative publicity around the EpiPen pricing is a driving force that pressured lawmakers to fine Mylan $465 million in 2016 for exploiting a regulatory misclassification to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates. It is likely that regulatory backlash will begin impacting the future FDA cooperation of Mylan’s other products. Continued friction between government regulators and Mylan could delay the FDA approval of more profitable new products and increase scrutiny into other areas of taxation and accounting regulations.

According to Porter’s five forces, over the next 10 years, EpiPen will suffer the fate of many other mature, low technology products which survived by the slight advantages of their distribution chain efficiency and became unable to grow and generate premium profits through technology advantages. For a firm such as Mylan, their interests would be best served by directing their focus toward the development of new products rather than expending administrative resources on the low-margin, maintenance of a supply chain distribution in a mature market.

 

Recommendations

Selling off the EpiPen brand and facilities to rival Teva Pharmaceuticals seems to be the most logical course of action. Teva’s acquisition of a widely recognized brand such as EpiPen would gain them access to the U.S. market which had recently been denied to them by the FDA’s rejection of their competitive product. The brand development value to Teva appears to exceed the future earnings potential of the EpiPen division to Mylan and could allow the firm to negotiate a premium sale price. However, there is some friction remaining between the leadership of both companies after Teva’s 2015 failed takeover attempt of Mylan.

The logical course of action, would be to advise Mylan’s CEO, Bresch, to contact leaders at Adrenaclick, Teva and Adamis to locate the highest bidder for the sale of the EpiPen brand prior to Mylan’s own launch of the generic version. By leveraging Teva’s offer, Mylan may be able to tempt either Adrenaclick or Adamis to pay a similar premium price for the brand. In addition, by delaying the generic marketing launch, a new competitor could capture the generic market by utilizing their own marketing campaign budget already allocated toward their entrance to the market. By allowing the new entrants to control the price band, the strategy could allow the entrants to more efficiently gain control over the adrenaline injector market, allowing the fewer remaining players to enjoy greater profit margins. It should be expected that EpiPen’s $800 million in annual profits will soon diminish back near the $18 million level of 2007 in the face of international competition and public scrutiny.

 

Conclusions

Mylan’s success at capturing untapped profit potential from a low-profit, mature market provided a valuable case study in both brand management strategies and an application of SWOT metrics. While the long-term brand potential remained limited, CEO Heather Bresch demonstrated great insight by capitalizing on EpiPen’s remaining market strengths and leveraged those strengths through marketing to exceed all foreseeable expectations of profit potential for the lackluster brand. Some analysts calculate that Bresch harvested more than three times the profits from EpiPen in the 10 years at the end of its patent protected lifecycle than the profits from all of the other companies combined, that owned the product along the 35 years that EpiPen was on the market (Koons).

The negative press would likely have been unforeseen by anyone, since the catalyst for the media scrutiny was originally aimed at Turing Pharmaceuticals and its outspoken CEO Martin Shkreli for their price hikes on lifesaving AIDS treatments. Mylan’s own negative press exposure was viewed by many as unjustified collateral damage, which brought an unfavorable spotlight on Bresch’s strategy and may have accelerated the entrance of new competitors which had been waiting patiently to exploit the optimum timing to reduce switching costs for consumers (Lee).

The public relations opportunity that Mylan probably missed was to demonstrate an empathy toward the uninsured by launching a parallel campaign to provide a package of free EpiPens a year to the uninsured or low-income underinsured customers, rather than their chosen direction of providing “$100 off” coupons that were limited only to those with commercial health insurance. Mylan’s disregard for the underinsured struck a nerve with the low-income masses and fueled the media frenzy that surrounded the executive pay scandals. The public relations damage to Mylan’s brand value and the resulting lack of political cooperation that will follow could be estimated to cost several billion dollars in the coming years as lawmakers begin to apply their own pressure by withholding cooperation and avoiding any compromises that appear to benefit Mylan.

 

 

Exhibit 4. Expert Financial Analysis

Martin Zweig Analyst Commentary on Recent Financial Performance of Mylan: Guru Score 62%

P/E RATIO: [PASS] The P/E of a company must be greater than 5 to eliminate weak companies, but not more than 3 times the current Market P/E because the situation is much too risky, and never greater than 43. MYL’s P/E is 38.62, , while the current market PE is 19.00. Therefore, it passes the first test.

TOTAL DEBT/EQUITY RATIO: [PASS] A final criterion is that a company must not have a high level of debt. If a company does have a high level, an investor may want to avoid this stock altogether. MYL’s Debt/Equity (128.91%) is not considered high relative to its industry (152.29%) and passes this test.

 

 

SOURCES

“10 New Years Resolutions for the Pharmacy Industry”. 2017. Medreps.com

https://www.medreps.com/medical-sales-careers/10-new-years-resolutions-for-the-pharma-

industry/

Bastick, Erin. 2017. “EPA Approves EpiPen Rival”. Formulary Journal.

http://formularyjournal.modernmedicine.com/formulary-journal/news/fda-approves-epipen-rival

Lee, Jaime. 2016. “Mylan CEO defends EpiPen strategy, questions pricing model in the U.S.” MMM   

         Online. http://www.mmm-online.com/commercial/mylan-ceo-defends-epipen-strategy-questions-        

          pricing-model-in-the-us/article/576448/

Koons, Cynthia. (2015). “How Marketing Turned EpiPen into a Billion Dollar Business”. Bloomberg

          Business Week. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-09-23/how-marketing-turned-

the-epipen-into-a-billion-dollar-business

Mattingly, Joseph. 2017. “Drug Price Wars, Episode VII: The General Assembly Awakens”. Mattingly  

            Report. https://www.mattinglymanagement.com/2017/02/generalassemblyawakens/

Popkin, Ben. (2016). “Mylan’s CEO Pay Rose over 600% as EpiPen Prices over 400%”. NBC News. http://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/mylan-execs-gave-themselves-raises-they-hiked-epipen-prices-n636591

“Pricing the EpiPen: This is Going to Sting”. (2016). Darden Business Publishing University of Virginia.

https://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cbmp/product/UV7186-PDF-ENG

Rankin, Peter. 2014. “Global Pricing Strategies for Pharmaceutical Product Launches”.

www.pharmaceticalpricing.com Sourced:

https://www.crai.com/sites/default/files/publications/Global-Pricing-Strategies-for-

Pharmaceutical-Product-Launches.pdf

Ubel, Peter. 2017. “What is Maddening About Pharmaceutical Prices”. Forbes. 

          https://www.forbes.com/sites/peterubel/2017/04/28/what-is-maddening-about-pharmaceutical-

prices/2/

Zweig, Martin. 2017. “Mylan Guru Performance Assessment”. NASADQ.

http://www.nasdaq.com/symbol/myl/guru-analysis/zweig#anchor2

 

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A Comparative 360 Degree Performance Assessment of 4 of the World’s Largest Tire Manufacturing Companies: Triple Bottom Line Case Studies

Todd Benschneider, Marie Larose, Kyria Perez-Serrano, Hailey Smith, Daniel Villa

University of South Florida, 10 November 2016

 

Table of Contents

 

Industry Overview………….…. 2

Economic Assessments.……… 4

Social and Environmental Assessment………………..……21

Concluding Remarks..…..…… 36

Works Cited…………………….. 37

 

Industry Overview

For our assessment, we chose to take an in-depth look into the tire industry. Drawn to the topic because of the industry’s large carbon footprint per unit sold and its historic reputation as an environmental polluter of PVC manufacturing byproducts, which have been linked to liver cancer in tire plant workers. 

The impact of worker PVC exposure has been well studied and in response to that research, the EPA has regulated the manufacturing process and the industry has taken subsequent action to reduce PVC vapor exposure (Criswell 3). 

Tire consumption is not considered to be an optional luxury good in industrialized countries; therefore, eliminating tire use is not currently a realistic goal; therefore, creating a long term sustainable plan for the industry is imperative. 

Since rubber product manufacturing is a mature industry dominated by a handful of large multinational companies, it therefore represents an ideal topic to study as an application of well-developed pollution control policies.

The biggest obstacle that we encountered in our U.S. industry choice was the fact that two of the largest companies in the industry were not U.S. based firms. 

Michelin, a French based firm, and Bridgestone, a Japan based firm, are both companies that have bought nearly all the major American brands (i.e. Firestone, Uniroyal, and BF Goodrich) in order to gain North American facilities in their pursuit of global expansion (Goodyear Tire…SWOT Analysis 3). 

We did, however, secure permission to include these companies into our research due to the fact that they are traded on either the NASDAQ or NYSE, and both have published detailed reports for their American shareholders.

 

FIRM SELECTION: GOODYEAR TIRE COMPANY

We chose to narrow our research focus to the Goodyear Tire Company because it is the largest U.S. based tire manufacturer. 

Based on conclusions drawn from older news stories about the company and previous MSCI ratings, it appears that Goodyear had been a laggard in social and sustainability issues over the previous 30 years; however, more recently the company has sought to reinvent its public image in 2010 with the launch of a strategic initiative on environmental and safety concerns (“Goodyear Tire…SWOT Analysis” 17).

While Goodyear has advanced upward in the MSCI ratings, it still falls behind its two major foreign competitors, Bridgestone and Michelin, in most environmental categories. Goodyear also scores a very distant last place ranking in financial performance among the top five tire companies in their 2015 financial reports. 

Despite the poor financials, most stock analysts still recommend Goodyear stock as “undervalued” or as a “long-term buy,” which indicates that analysts believe the current financial condition is temporary and improving (“Goodyear Pumped with Tire Profits” 1).

 

Economic Assessment

In the most recent 2015 annual reports, Goodyear was the poorest performer in its industry, and appeared to have fallen dramatically in comparison to its previous four years.

However, most of the 2015 change in financials is attributed to Goodyear’s decision to write off one of its largest tire manufacturing plants located in Venezuela where operations have been disrupted by currency and political instability. The company will retain ownership of the facility, but political instability will prevent the liquidation of the assets which will be written off in their entirety for the 2015 reporting year. Future sale of assets will be applied as capital gains to the year of sale.

Financial Times writer Pan Kwan Yuk summarized the Venezuelan liability in an article titled “Goodyear takes $646m hit on Venezuela” in the February 9th, 2016 edition of The Financial Times in his description of the events:

“The economic meltdown in Venezuela continues to blow holes across the balance sheets of corporate America, with Goodyear, the US tire maker, the latest to announce a substantial write-down to its business there.

The company said it took a $646m hit during the fourth quarter after it moved to deconsolidate its Venezuelan business from its financial statements. The write down pushed Goodyear into a loss of $373m for the December quarter, compared to a profit of more than $2.1bn a year earlier.

Excluding the Venezuelan write-off, net income came in at $257m.

Major US companies with exposure to Venezuela – including Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, American Airlines, PepsiCo, AT&T and Ford Motor – have been collectively forced to take billions of dollars of write downs in recent years as Venezuela’s currency problems accelerate.

Unlike bleach maker Clorox, which exited Venezuela altogether 16 months ago, Goodyear said it continues to maintain manufacturing and sales operations in the country.

But like its peers, it has decided deconsolidate and write off nearly all of its cash and investment there amid little sign that it would be able to take the cash out of the country. The move comes as soaring inflation and the fast depreciating bolivar render the value of its bolivars lower by the day. Foreign currency exchange losses related to the Venezuelan bolivar fuerte came in at $34m for the 2015 year, Goodyear said.

Goodyear generates nearly half of its revenues from outside North America and the collapse of a number of major developed and emerging market currencies against the dollar has sharply eroded the value of its sales in those countries. Sales for the fourth quarter were $4.1bn, compared to $4.4bn a year ago. “Sales were impacted by $339 million in unfavorable foreign currency translation,” the company said in a statement. Shares in Goodyear, up 4 per cent over the past 12 months, were largely unchanged in pre-market trading.”

Despite its most recent financial results, many stock analysts see retained value that was built over the most recent five year performance and strongly recommend purchasing the undervalued Goodyear stock throughout most of 2016. In fact, over the past eight years Goodyear stock price has increased by over 500%. However, much of those gains were actually recovering stock price that was lost in the financial crisis of 2008, and has only recently returned to its 2007 price peak after the stock split of 1999. Despite the excellent 12 month performance of both Bridgestone and Michelin, both Goodyear and its U.S. peer Cooper tire have superior 5-year stock price increases.

For Example, on September 28, 2016 ETmarketwatch.com included Goodyear Tire in their article titled “These are the Nine Most Beloved Stocks on Wall Street Today” by describing Goodyear’s future potential:

“You might not always trust Wall Street analysts, but their views on stocks can be useful. For one, you can see which companies they favor. And, second, which shares might still be undervalued, given the seven-year-plus bull market in U.S. stocks.

The games that companies and sell-side analysts play with quarterly earnings — lowering expectations to set up “earnings beats” — hurt the credibility of analysts. Their reputations also are hurt by their tendency to avoid putting “sell” recommendations on stocks. In fact, as of the close of trading Sept. 20, not a single S&P 500 SPX, +0.08%  stock had majority “sell” ratings, according to FactSet.

But if you speak to a Wall Street analyst about an industry or a company, he or she will show impressive expertise and be able to justify his 12-month “buy,” “sell” or “hold” ratings pretty easily. Over the long term, analysts are also influential over stock prices as their consensus earnings estimates rise or fall.

Analysts often recommend buying shares of a company because the current stock price is considerably lower than where they think it should be, based on earnings and sales growth, cash-flow generation or other metrics. So there can be a great deal of logic behind a “buy” recommendation.

So we are listing, below, the stocks that are getting the most love from analysts. It might surprise you that there’s not a single stock among the S&P 500 with 100% “buy” or equivalent ratings. But here are nine with at least 90% positive ratings among analysts:

Figure 1- FactSet Stock Analysis

 

Figure 2- Consensus Recommendations

All the stock analysts’ recommendations on Goodyear we found in November indicated that around $30 per share of the stock is undervalued and on average support the data posted by Marketwatch. Reuters.com posted this summary graph from November 24, 2016 supporting Marketwatch’s claim that nearly all analysts expect Goodyear stock to out-perform the market in coming years.

Some analysts also explain that since tire manufacturers stock prices are volatile by comparison to the S&P 500 due to their reliance on rubber plantation yields, which are often impacted by weather, currency fluctuations and political news. With that level of volatility, tire companies stock prices typically trade at a discount to their earning potential when compared with other less volatile industries (“Sweet Spot” 1). However, while automotive component manufacturer stocks are performing well, the surprising discovery was that Michelin and Cooper, who posted superior returns on their 2015 earnings statements, both have lower stock purchase recommendation than do the frontrunner Goodyear and close second place Bridgestone.

2015 Annual Tire Revenue in Billions USD
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
16 27.1 22 2.9

 

Of large rubber companies, there are inconsistent rankings among the largest companies. Some rank by corporate revenue, including non-tire, and some even have substantial revenue generated by non-rubber products. For example, in overall revenue, including all subsidiaries, Goodyear is the world’s largest. However, by tire revenue, Goodyear ranks a distant third in revenue from tire sales and Bridgestone leads world tire revenue.

2015 Global Tire Industry Market Share
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
13.8% 23.4% 19% 2.5%

 

The global tire market demand creates a $116 billion per year industry, of which Japanese Bridgestone captures nearly a quarter of with Goodyear distantly trailing at about 14% global market share.

Current Ratio
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
1.24 2.17 1.91 3.08

 

Goodyear’s current ratio at 1.24 is the lowest of the Big 4 Tire Companies, but still within a healthy range for auto component firms. Cooper Tire is the leader in the above financial performance metric.

Quick Ratio
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
.74 1.5 1.06 2.13

 

Goodyear’s liquidity, a metric that serves as a precursor to a firm’s potential, inability to pay its current liabilities, as evidenced by the quick ratio, shows that Goodyear is the least liquid of the Big 4 Tire Companies at a .74, which is considered to be financially unsound at levels under 1.0. However, analysts must view this as a temporary result of the Venezuelan deconsolidation and, in spite of the liquidity report, recommend investing in Goodyear (Kwan Yuk 1).

Cash Ratio
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
.3 .72 .36 1.17

 

Goodyear’s 2015 cash ratio is the lowest of the Big 4 Tire Companies at .3, with a near tie to Michelin at .36. What seems surprising is that Cooper indicates excellent cash availability, possibly due to the lack of an aggressive growth strategy.

 

Debt to Equity Ratio
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
1.46 .1963 .2881 .316

 

Again, Goodyear ranks last in the financial performance metric of debt to equity ratio coming in at 1.46 in comparison with its three industry peers, which all have ratios under .32. However, mention is made by analysts that Goodyear’s accounting system regarding their underfunded pension is the factor that skews this metric. Financial analysts suggest that the average U.S. firm has a debt to equity ratio around 1.5, so Goodyear’s performance is not necessarily out of align with other industries, but their debt level is mentioned in the SWOT portion of their annual report as their greatest weakness.

Long Term Debt to Capital Structure
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
52.91 16.64 18.91 23.0

 

With regards to long term debt to capital structure, once again, Goodyear distantly trails its top industry peers with a ratio of 52.91:1, in comparison to the other end of the spectrum where its rival, Bridgestone, is much less risky in its structure at 16.64:1.

Debt to Assets Ratio
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
35.01% 11.63% 18.91% 12.7%

 

Goodyear again trails its industry peers with its debt to assets ratio, with 35.01% of its assets financed by debt, where its top industry peers have healthier ratios from 11.63% to 18.91%, another indicator that suggests that Goodyear does not have the financial health and stability of its peers.

Return on Assets
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
1.78% 7.33% 5.01% 8.64%

 

With regard to return on assets, Goodyear continues to lag behind its peers. However, analysts explain that if the Venezuelan deconsolidation had not been charged to 2015, the return on assets would have been around 6% (Kwan Yuk 1). One notable observation here is that American rival Cooper, who will later be discounted for poor corporate citizenship scores, shines on this primary measure for generating profits, which suggests the possibility that critics of environmental policies and reporting of the top three who score high on corporate citizenship measures may be at a cost of several percent of return on assets over the short term, and might influence executives to discount the priority of environmental issues.

 

Return on Equity
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
8.15% 13.26% 12.21% 23.34%

 

Goodyear’s 2015 return on equity performance also lags behind its industry peers at 8.15% in contrast to its U.S. rival and citizenship laggard Cooper Tire with a return nearly twice as much as the Big Three Tire Companies at 23.34%, which again might reinforce some skeptics’ views on the profitability of corporate sustainability objectives.

Return on Sales
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
10.04% 13.6% 5.47% 14.19%

 

Goodyear ranks third place out of four in return on sales at 10.04%, with corporate citizenship laggard Cooper leading this profitability factor at 14.19%.

Earnings Per Share
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
1.14 1.64 1.39 3.73

 

Goodyear ranked last out of four in earnings per share, with once again environmental laggard Cooper at more than double the second place Bridgestone.

 

Earnings Per Share Growth
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
-87.51% (5.43%) 13.77% .718%

 

In the easily skewed benchmark of earnings per share growth, Goodyear plummets from the other top three tire companies by reporting earnings 87.51% lower than the 2014 annual report. This is also highly influenced by the write off of its investments in Venezuela. Michelin posted improved earnings per share and Cooper stayed nearly on pace with 2014 earnings.

Price to Earnings Ratio
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
25.56 12.1 15.9 9.3

 

In terms of stock price value, Goodyear’s 2015 report shows a distant 4th place out of the four largest tire companies with a stock price of 25.26 times of every dollar earned, where Cooper stock represents the opposite spectrum where stock is valued at only $9.30 for every dollar of reported annual earnings. This ratio on the surface would not seem to support analysts’ purchase recommendation for Goodyear, however the record low earnings of 2015 as Goodyear wrote off $646 million dollars of Venezuelan assets skewed the single year earnings (Kwan Yuk 1).

Growth in Share Price
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
(11.8%) 9.68% 6.84%

(5.2%)

 

Figure 3- Goodyear 5 yr Stock Price Chart – Marketwatch.com 11/24/2016

Along with the previous influence of the Venezuelan write off, the 2014-2015 share price growth for Goodyear ranks it a distant last place among the Big 4 tire companies at -11.8%, where on the other end of the scale Bridgestone’s stock prices climbed 9.68% in the same year.

5 Year Average Growth in Share Price per year
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
51.8% 32.2% 43% 59.3%

 

However, as evidenced by the above 5-year graph of Goodyear stock, it becomes more apparent why analysts are recommending clients to buy Goodyear stock. It can be seen that over the previous five years Goodyear stock values have increased by an average of 51.8% per year, and recent negative financial data is quite likely limited to a single non-recurring economic anomaly of the Venezuelan deconsolidation, which should have a beneficial effect on 2016 and future financials that will no longer be reduced by continued losses from the sinking Venezuelan location (Kwan Yuk 1). While both Michelin and Bridgestone post more stable financial condition than Goodyear, those competitors are inferior in shareholder value enhancement over the past 5 years. However, it once again needs to be noted that Corporate Citizenship laggard Cooper leads the Top 4 by a sizable margin in this measure of profitability.

Asset Turnover
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
.95 .98 .92 1.2

 

In the asset turnover benchmark, Goodyear ranks third of four among closely scored competitors at .95. This area most likely was improved by the write off of Venezuelan assets. Once again, it must be noted that the leader of this metric is the laggard Cooper as its efficiency generating sales from its assets is 1.2.

Equity Turnover
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
3.96 1.753 2.07 3.38

Goodyear did show top industry performance in equity turnover as they generated $16.40 of revenue in 2015 from only $4.142 billion in shareholder equity for an equity turnover ratio of 3.96, in comparison to Bridgestone which only managed to double its assets worth in annual sales. This benchmark provides some insight to the majority of financial analysts who are bullish on Goodyear’s future stock value.

Revenue Growth
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
(2.02%) 3.17% 8.42% (13.2%)

 

In the 2015 year-over-year revenue growth, Goodyear ranked third of the Big 4 at 2.02% loss in revenue from the 2014 annual report. This could be partially attributed to when the income from Venezuela was no longer being measured. This is the first major financial benchmark where Cooper had fallen to a distant fourth place. As little as year-over-year performance might actually mean, Cooper’s loss of market share may be attributed to the launch of high tech fuel efficiency and electricity generating tires being patented by its three rivals, where Cooper has not yet become a player in this tire technology design.

Five Year Average Revenue Growth
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
(2.68%) 5.78% 3.45% (2.42%)

 

Figure 4- Goodyear Growth Chart from CSImarket.com 11/24/2016

Five year average revenue growth is a more reliable indicator of management and industry performance. Here, Goodyear scores at an average annual loss of 2.68%, roughly a 15% decline over half the decade. However, Goodyear had been purposely exiting some tire markets and selling off lower profit lines to concentrate on high value tires and focus on its electricity generating electric car tires, which is later evidenced by its five year increase in profit margins. Here again, Cooper’s lack of investment in high value technology tires is most evident as they may maintain on units sold, but lose out on premium priced tires to inherit the low price leftovers of the Big 3. Bridgestone, which has expanded more deeply into heavy equipment and agriculture lines, taking up some of Goodyear’s void left after their exit from some of those lines, increased in sales revenue by nearly 30% over the past three years from its product line expansion (Pierce 1). Michelin gained about 15% in sales from its expansion into low rolling resistant tires for the hybrid and electric car markets.

Stock analyst buy recommendations may also be influenced by patents that Goodyear has applied for in a tire design that harnesses the heat generated from hot roads and friction, and converts it into electricity for hybrid and electric vehicles (“Tech News: Goodyear Unveils Electric Car Tires” 1). The technology is performing well in testing, and if manufacturing costs can become competitive on the designs, then the value of licensing the technology will become even more valuable than producing the actual tires, and would have a very positive effect on Goodyear stock prices. Alan Pierce wrote an industry reaction to the release of the prototype in the 75th issue of Tech Directions (2015) in an article titled “The Goodyear BHO3–A Car Tire That Generates Electricity.” The following summary:

“The Achilles heel of all electric vehicles is how far they can travel before their batteries need recharging. At the 85th Geneva International Motor Show, The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company unveiled their BHO3 prototype tire. This tire has a built-in electricity-generating system that can partially recharge the batteries on an electric vehicle without breaking any of the laws of thermodynamics. To avoid breaking the laws of thermodynamics, their tire breakthrough has to generate electricity without changing the amount of energy used by the electric motor during the normal operation of the vehicle. Without changing how much energy it takes to roll the tire, the BHO3 prototype turns tire heat and tire deformation—which are caused by the normal rolling of the tire—into electricity. Tires are usually designed to run as cool as possible. Goodyear has intentionally designed this tire to run as hot as possible to maximize the amount of heat available for conversion into electricity. This tire is designed to absorb heat even when the car is parked. So even if the car isn’t running, its hot tires will be generating electricity to charge the car’s batteries. All ambient heat is converted into electricity by a thermo-piezoelectric layer that covers the full internal surface of the tire. Getting the tires hot is a priority, so the outer shell of the tire has a special black texture specifically designed to absorb sunlight and convert it into heat. The tread is also designed to absorb and transmit heat, created by the friction of the road surface, to further raise the tires’ temperature. Goodyear system that keeps the outer temperature of the tire reasonable while it is extremely hot inside. The goal here is to not melt the blacktop on the road’s surface or burn a person’s hand if they touch a tire. Goodyear’s goal is to get every bit of otherwise wasted energy converted into electricity. To convert the physical deformation of the tires where they touch the road, Goodyear built a separate piezoelectric layer that converts into electricity the physical flexing of the tire as it rolls. These tires are extremely rugged and they can run safely at 50 miles per hour for up to 50 miles even after suffering a puncture. Photo 2 shows what the Goodyear BHO3 prototype tire display looked like at the Geneva Switzerland International Motor show. You can view a video introducing the BHO3 at www.youtube.com/ watch?v=ViMqrtq4aYg. The Goodyear press release that I received did not indicate how the electricity will be transferred from the tires to the batteries, how much electricity the system can generate, or how soon this prototype tire will find its way into commercial use. However, down the road, when it is introduced it might increase the range of the all-electric vehicle enough to make the all-electric vehicle practical.”

The growth potential for electric automobiles could disrupt the 100 year old auto industry once consumer demand for electric models snowballs or once legislators increase tax penalties on combustion powered vehicles. Either way, non-combustion powered vehicles appear to be drawing near on the horizon, and companies that continue to invest in development of gas powered models may find themselves left behind when the change takes place. Goodyear had already lost first mover advantage in 2006 for low rolling resistance passenger car designs to Michelin, but came back in 2010 to patent unique technology to become the low rolling resistance pioneer in heavy truck tires in their recently released “Fuel Max” line that has analysts bullish on Goodyear’s stock performance.

To help detail Goodyear’s logic behind the contradictory financials, Dow Theory Forecasts published this article in on September 12, 2015 titled “Goodyear Pumped with Tire Profits” with the following explanation:

“Formed in 1898, Goodyear Tire & Rubber ($30; GT) initially sold bicycle and carriage tires, horseshoe pads, and poker chips. By the 1980s, Goodyear had grown into a bloated conglomerate that built wheels, aircraft canopies, and even dabbled in gas pipelines. Today those businesses not related to rubber are long gone, as Goodyear has refocused on its core operations. New tires accounted for 87% of Goodyear’s revenue last year, the remainder coming from rubber-related chemicals and about 1,200 tire and auto-service shops. Goodyear tends to be a jittery stock, with exposure to the highly volatile market for synthetic and natural rubber. For now, commodity-price trends tilt in Goodyear’s favor. The company’s raw-material costs fell 9% last year and are projected to decrease 12% in 2015. The stock’s volatility seems well discounted in its price. In Quadrix®, Goodyear scores in the cheapest quintile for price/sales, price/cash flow, and price/earnings ratios using both trailing and estimated current-year profits. At 11 times trailing earnings, the stock trades in line with its 10-year average. Goodyear, earning a Value rank of 95 and Overall rank of 98, was initiated in the June 29 issue as a Long-Term Buy.

Prizing profits over sales have declined 7% to 8% in each of the past three years, hurt by foreign-currency headwinds, weaker pricing, and soft volumes. But Goodyear has a knack for wringing more profits out of less revenue. Net income has surged in recent years on lower raw-material costs and the divestment of high-cost plants. In 2014, Goodyear posted its highest operating profit margins since 1996. Encouragingly, tire volumes are starting to improve. Goodyear’s volumes rose 2% in the March quarter, and the company projects a gain of 1% to 2% for the year. Moreover, Goodyear announced in June plans to dissolve a venture that involved joint ownership of Dunlop branded tires in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Goodyear will pay a net price of $271 million to take full control of the venture in Europe, divest the North American venture while still retaining the right to sell Dunlop tires in most markets there, and gain full ownership of the Goodyear brand in Asia. As a result, Goodyear expects annual revenue to decline by $100 million, though per-share profits should rise $0.15 to $0.18 due to the reduction in non-controlling interest expense. Operating cash flow totaled $1.62 billion for the 12 months ended March, nearly five times higher than the prior 12-month period. Goodyear has also generated $651 million in free cash flow over the past year.

Investors may have to wait until 2016 for sales to begin growing again. But Goodyear continues to improve efficiency, last month announcing plans to shutter a plant in England and move operations to lower-cost regions. The consensus calls for 5% higher per-share profits in 2015, despite 9% lower revenue.”

The article encapsulates the perspective of stock traders who see great future value in the Goodyear Company based on past ability to overcome adversity and adapt to economic change. Many stock traders see Goodyear’s recent setbacks as an opportunity to obtain the stock for a discount.

 

Social and Environmental Assessment

Goodyear has a global stake in community engagement, and their personal social assessment of the company is broken down amongst four different categories: Safe, Smart, Associate Volunteerism and Sustainable (“Community Support”). The grant programs that Goodyear has set in place are meant to better the community as it applies to each of the four categories. These grants are part of the Goodyear Better Future platform.

Safe: This category encompasses finding support for safe travel and mobility within communities. Along those lines, Goodyear has four programs in place worldwide. The Safe Mobility Program (which is detailed further in the sustainability report below), the Safe Way to School project in Poland that helps teach first graders safety while walking to school, the Rainy Season Awareness campaign in Guatemala that helps prep drivers for travel in the rainy season, and Race Collaboration in Spain that teaches road risk prevention and responsible road behavior (“Safe”).

Smart: This area includes supportive programs for adults and children in the hopes of educating and inspiring creativity and innovation. Along with the STEM programs detailed later in the report through the sustainability report section, Goodyear has two other programs including the Student Environmental Program in Turkey that gives university students field-based training on environmental support for the future, and the Hope School Project in China that gives students a positive educational environment (“Smart).

Associate Volunteerism: Goodyear encourages its associates worldwide to get out into the community and get involved. They have established programs such as the Hand in Hand program in Slovenia that connects schools through social media, and the safe driving Road and Tire Safety Campaign in Indonesia (“Associate Volunteerism”).

Sustainable: Goodyear has many programs set in place to assure that environmental protection is a key driver for the company. The “Pay Attention! To The Environment” Campaign, which they started in 2010, involves a waste-management collaboration between 60 institutions to reduce high school carbon footprints in Slovenia. Brazil recently received the Goodyear company sustainability award for conservation, in Thailand received the country’s Environmental Good Governance award, and two plants in Turkey held a drawing contest to fill their yearly calendars with images drawn by children highlighting environmental safety and protection. These are all instances of good environmental sustainability efforts that Goodyear is proud to highlight (“Sustainable”)

The Goodyear Foundation is another program designed to fit alongside Goodyear’s social responsibility strategies, but this program focuses on individual funding efforts whereas the others are more community support focused.

GREENWASHING AND BLUEWASHING CLAIMS

Despite Goodyear’s below industry average current “BB” MSCI ratings, the company appears to be growing into a good corporate citizen based on the five year score improvements against higher scoring industry peers. Due to stricter regulations in their home countries, both Bridgestone and Michelin have a longer history of environmental stewardship policies. Goodyear and it U.S. rival Cooper are the only companies from the top five world tire manufacturers that are not members of the United Nations Global Compact. Instead, Goodyear has adopted the lightly regarded WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development), as well as the WRI (World Resource Institute) environmental impact reporting standards, and Cooper refuses to disclose sustainability reports (“Goodyear 2015 Annual Report” 42-44).

In addition to lack of GRI reporting, Goodyear also could be considered to be greenwashing its efforts since does not use an outside environmental audit firm to verify its impact reports. Among its industry peers, Michelin enjoys a recently upgraded “A rating” on its proprietary impact reporting system, and only “BBB” rated Bridgestone, BB rated Continental and B rated Pirelli utilize independent auditors to verify their environmental impact claims.

Despite Goodyear’s 2015 third place ranking in the big three tire companies, a look at the past three year’s ratings show that, in recent years, Goodyear had been close to the first place with its B and BB rankings in three of the past five years. It should be noted that in the most recent two years, all three tire companies upgraded by one or two grades in MSCI ratings.

The Goodyear website and annual reports have large sections dedicated to publicizing their corporate citizenship goals. Many of these goals seem to be conservative when compared to environmental activist firms like Patagonia or Interface. However, Goodyear received worldwide accolades for its seven consecutive years of zero Landfill success. As taken from Goodyear’s own website, here is the abbreviated front page summary of their 23 pages of corporate citizenship goals and policies.

GOODYEAR’S 2015 SUSTAINABILITY REPORT

“ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

Sharing the planet responsibly with customers, employees, shareholders, communities and suppliers is the impetus behind key sustainability objectives at Goodyear. Our sustainable activities mirror this commitment.

21 Species of plants and animals protected on site of new Goodyear plant in Mexico.

While a site survey for Goodyear’s new plant in San Luis Potosi identified only a single cactus as a protected species in Mexico, 20 other plants and animals were recognized as protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). These species are not endangered or facing extinction, but their survival requires special consideration. As a company committed to caring for our environment and communities, Goodyear relocated all to safe and compatible habitats.

510,731 GHG emissions reduction in metric tons compared to 2010, our baseline year. In 2015, Goodyear exceeded a five-year goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 19%. Part of our strategy to reduce GHG emissions is to address the entire lifecycle of our products, including reducing emissions from supplied materials through manufacturing, during use and final end of product life.

23% water use reduction since 2010, our baseline year. While the majority of Goodyear’s manufacturing facilities are in areas unaffected by water scarcity concerns, it is still important to us that we continuously reduce our impact on local water resources. We have reduced our water use by implementing leak detection programs and water conservation strategies, and investing capital into water reuse and treatment systems at select facilities.

15% reduction in energy consumption since 2010, our baseline year. In 2015, Goodyear achieved its five-year goal of reducing energy consumption by 15%. Each of our regions has a full-time energy manager engaged in implementing steps to reduce the use of energy in our facilities around the world.

38% solvent reduction in the last five years. Goodyear continues to be an industry leader in efforts to reduce solvents in our manufacturing facilities. Our use rate in 2015 was 0.69, a further reduction from 2014. Our focus remains on the global application of best practices to further reduce this rate.

0% amount of waste any Goodyear manufacturing facility is permitted to send to a landfill. For the past seven years, Goodyear has maintained Zero Waste to Landfill, a program that applies to all manufacturing facilities. This corporate initiative reduces our environmental impact by requiring all manufacturing plants to reduce, reuse and recycle waste.

OUR PEOPLE

At Goodyear, we are one team working together to drive performance on the road, in the marketplace and throughout the company. To reach our full potential as associates and deliver on business goals, we strive for five interdependent behaviors: Act with Integrity, Promote Collaboration, Be Agile, Energize the Team, and Deliver Results.

65,000 + employees Completed compliance and ethics training events. Associates around the globe completed online and in-person training events on topics such as the Business Conduct Manual, anti-bribery, competition laws, financial integrity, conflicts of interest, privacy, and protecting company information.

4= Current number of Employee Resource Groups.

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) benefit Goodyear associates by providing access to invaluable coaching, mentoring, professional development, training and seminars, as well as opportunities to expand their professional network within the organization. In 2015, Goodyear had four ERGs —Goodyear Veterans Association, Goodyear Women’s Network, Goodyear Black Network, and Next Generation Leaders. Goodyear has plans to add another ERG in 2016 to promote diversity and inclusion.

66,000 Associates around the world.

We encourage a culture where associates own their own development and managers provide opportunities, coach and support their people throughout the development journey. Our leaders are held accountable for inspiring their teams, growing the business and acting with integrity, and their own talent management by honoring their commitments to associates.

HEALTH, SAFETY & WELLNESS

At Goodyear, we continue to build a culture where safety and wellness are values to each and every associate. By doing so, we will continue our drive toward zero incidents.

36% Injury reduction in the past five years. At Goodyear, our goal for safety performance is for every Goodyear associate around the world to go home injury-free every day. Our ultimate goal is for zero incidents. Examples of this focus include programs such as Target Zero, which focuses on near-miss reporting, and our global audit program that helps us strive for full compliance and continuous improvement in our environmental, health, safety and sustainability systems.

18 Health and wellness program and communications channels in place. Goodyear’s wellness initiative for associates, GoodLife, provides the information, tools and programs that foster an atmosphere of wellness and promote a culture of health at Goodyear. A new channel, the GoodLife app, is scheduled to launch in 2016.

OUR INNOVATIONS

Innovation excellence drives our technological advances and enables us to create products and services that are valued and sought out by consumers and customers. Our solutions respond to the needs of an increasingly complex market and help to set us apart from the competition. Innovations our customers want and need.

Innovative Tires: Among other important attributes, Goodyear conducts research to make tires environmentally friendly and fuel efficient in a variety of ways, such as by reducing tire weight. For example, Goodyear is the first manufacturer to incorporate silica derived from rice husk ash into its tires. Aside from making tires more fuel efficient, this innovation has the potential to eliminate millions of tons of rice husk from the waste stream. Visit our Corporate Responsibility website for more information about our award-winning innovations.

SmartWay®-verified products on the roads.

A total of 21 Goodyear truck tire products that increase fuel efficiency and provide low rolling resistance have received SmartWay verification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA established low rolling resistance requirements for retreaded truck tires in 2012, and verified tires must help reduce truck fuel consumption by at least 3%.

669 New worldwide patents received.

In 1900, when automotive tires were little more than oversized bicycle tires, Goodyear designed a better tire, thus creating the enduring Goodyear legacy of continuous improvement and innovation. Today, our success continues to be driven by innovation, and our associates around the world create innovative products, including those with low rolling resistance and other sustainable considerations.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Goodyear has a long history of supporting its communities around the world. We strive to build and support collaborative programs that create positive outcomes for people, communities and the world around us. This mindset is reinforced through the company’s ongoing commitment to care for our communities.

2100 Students, parents and teachers in attendance at Goodyear’s 16th annual STEM Career Day.

In Akron, Ohio, Goodyear’s annual STEM Career Day engages local middle- and high-school students in challenging, hands-on STEM instruction and activities. More than 300 Goodyear associates volunteer their time to plan and supervise the event, which includes $40,000 in scholarships to deserving students.

Over $1 Million in funds raised for local charities by Goodyear Blimps since 2012.

Among other corporate responsibility programs, Goodyear supports the fundraising efforts of local charities by providing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to ride the Goodyear Blimp at our Blimp locations in California, Florida and Ohio.

In 2015, for a fifth year, Goodyear hosted events for the general public at its three blimp bases to benefit the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program. Attendees were invited to see the blimps up close while donating toys and cash to a worthy cause. More than 58,000 toys and $141 thousand have been donated since inception of the program in 2010. This includes a special donation in the form of a check for $10,000 from Goodyear made directly to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation in 2015. Goodyear is recognized as a national sponsor and is a recipient of the Foundation’s Commander Award.”

With the above declarations of corporate responsibility, it should be noted that Goodyear has not always embodied the corporate values they’ve claimed in the annual report. Over the past 40 years, Goodyear has been associated with multiple hazardous waste lawsuits including the famous Love Canal site, which may explain why management’s most successful stretch goal was to eliminate waste disposal (“Company Spotlight: The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company” 3). Goodyear also had been sued for worker safety concerns and consumer safety issues that have been blamed for thousands of automobile deaths. In 2003, Goodyear was forced to restate five years of its previous earnings that reduced declared earnings by over $100 million due to earnings management practices engaged in by management of European subsidiaries.

In addition, Goodyear was a party in three now famous precedent setting Supreme Court cases: one for equal pay, one for international judicial jurisdiction and another for improper evidence disclosure in a product liability suit. Dozens of other product liability and worker safety suits have been filed against the Goodyear Corporation over the past 10 years. However, for a company that employs 67,000 workers across the globe, the percentage of alleged wrongdoing appears to be minimal.

The most famous Goodyear lawsuit, which ruled in favor of the company, now has a law named after it as the legal structure was changed to protect workers in the future. The history of that law can be summed up in this summary of the original case ruling written by Linda Barkacs in the 2009 volume 12 of the Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory issues titled “THE TIME IS RIGHT – OR IS IT? THE SUPREME COURT SPEAKS IN LEDBETTER V. GOODYEAR TIRE & RUBBER CO.”

“The plaintiff, Lilly Ledbetter (“Ledbetter”), began her career at Goodyear Tire and Rubber (“Goodyear”) in 1979. For most of her twenty year career at Goodyear, Ledbetter was the only female manager. Initially, Ledbetter’s salary was the same as that of the male managers. However, over time, Ledbetter’s salary slipped relative to that of the male managers. By 1997, Ledbetter was not only the sole woman manager, she was also the lowest paid manager. Ledbetter’s monthly salary at the time of her departure was approximately $3,700 per month. Similarly situated male managers at Goodyear made between $4,200 and $5,200 per month. In 1998, Ledbetter filed an administrative claim of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). She alleged that Goodyear violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by paying her a lower salary because of her sex. Ledbetter’s claim eventually went to a jury who found in her favor. The District Court (in Alabama) entered judgment for Ledbetter for back pay, damages, attorney fees, and costs.”

Goodyear appealed the ruling based on the fact that the plaintiff had waited nearly 20 years to file a complaint for back pay, and the Supreme Court overturned the verdict in Goodyear’s favor. Legislation that prevents the recurrence of similar cases is now called the “Lilly Ledbetter Act.”

A second precedent setting Supreme Court case was Goodyear vs Brown, a case in which the tire company’s European subsidiaries won against the families of two boys from North Carolina who were killed in a tire blowout accident while in France on vacation. The Supreme Court ruled that the state of North Carolina could not bring suit against the French subsidiary of Goodyear due to lack of personal jurisdiction over a foreign company in a foreign country.

STAGES OF CORPORATE CITIZENSHIP

It would appear that Michelin and Bridgestone and Germany’s Continental have attained the innovative stage of corporate citizenship, with Goodyear, Sumito and Pirelli two stages behind at the Engaged level, followed by both Korean tire makers, Hankook and Kumho, and by the only other U.S. tire manufacturer Cooper, which lags far behind in the elementary stages of citizenship. However, despite comparatively low citizenship ratings, Goodyear is a world leader in waste management, having attained 100% landfill free sustainability, in which all of its waste products are recycled or consumed internally. Goodyear also ranks above its peers in water conservation and overall carbon emissions. Those waste management claims appear to be substantiated by credible news stories citing Goodyear’s zero landfill success (Criswell 1). With wide support of environmental critics on its landfill policy, it appears that greenwashing of environmental reporting is limited. In addition, the fact that the firm does not claim ties to the UN Global Compact and limits environmental credibility claims, it does not appear that Goodyear relies on bluewashing as a marketing tool.

CITIZENSHIP OVERVIEW OF SELECTED FIRMS

Bridgestone -BBB Rated – BRDCY

Starting with the world’s largest tire manufacturer, the Japanese owned Bridgestone Tire Company recently nudged its rival Michelin out of first place in global market share. However, in dollars of sales, Bridgestone has long dominated the world tire market in sales revenue and is considered by analysts to be environmentally focused in its policies (Bridgestone Corporate Website).

  • Utilizes Japanese reporting guidelines & Global Reporting Initiative (GRI Standards)
  • Environmental reports are verified for accuracy by the “Bureau Veritas”
  • Japanese company that bought up American tire maker Firestone
  • Auto industry leader in carbon reduction strategy and improvements
  • BB Rating from recent consumer safety recalls
  • Goal 35% carbon emissions reduction from 2005-2020
  • First to adopt non-petroleum based rubber ingredients

 

Michelin- MSCI A-rated

Reports Environmental Data in UNGC standards and GRI

  • 2nd largest tire mfg. French bought US tire makers – Uniroyal-Goodrich-Riken
  • Proprietary reporting program: MEF– Michelin Environmental footprint
  • Set target to reduce their “MEF” by 40% from 2010-2020
  • Environmental data required by regulators of industry
  • Sustainability is high corporate priority
  • EPA national performance track program participants (Michelin Corporate Website)

Goodyear-BB-rated

  • American company – World’s 3rd largest tire maker
  • Global EHS reporting standards (environmental-health-safety)
  • Focused on landfill and toxic waste reduction
  • Less focused on greenhouse gases
  • Slow to respond to initial green tech markets such as energy efficient tires
  • Carbon emissions per tire have dropped 21% in past 6 years (Goodyear Corporate Website).

Cooper Tire-BB-Rated

Cooper is second largest American tire company and the 10th largest in the world. Among the top 10, only Cooper and the two Korean tire companies Hankook and Komho refuse to publish environmental impact statements or discuss corporate citizenship goals in their annual reports. Because tire manufacturing is regulated by the EPA, Cooper does have some environmental data harvested from those compliance reports. There is no mention of carbon emissions on the Cooper investor website, however, Cooper is listed as very strong in energy efficiency policies on the MSCI data (Cooper Corporate Website).

As the metrics of corporate citizenship are compared, Cooper’s lack of investment in environmental technology becomes apparent as it trails the Big 3 by more than 10%, and Japanese Bridgestone leads the closest competitor by about 15%.

 

MSCI Carbon Footprint Ratings
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
5.1 6.9 5.6 4.6

 

MSCI Total Carbon Emissions
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
9 9.1 8.9 6.1

 

2015 MSCI ratings for total carbon emissions are very close among the Big 3, and the less environmentally concerned Cooper trails by nearly 30%.

MSCI Toxic Waste Ratings
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
5.6 5.7 7.8 4.4

 

In a surprising outcome for toxic waste ratings, despite Goodyear’s Zero Landfill Waste Campaign, Goodyear trails Michelin by a large margin, and Bridgestone by a smaller one. This may be attributed to PVC vapor escape rather than physical toxic waste dumping. As would be expected, Cooper tire trails the BIG 3 by about 20%.

 

MSCI Clean Technology Development Ratings
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
4.3 5.7 6.1 4.0

 

When it comes to a company’s investment in environmentally beneficial products, Michelin leads from its early introduction a decade ago in low rolling resistant tires, a market that Goodyear has recently began to dominate with a fuel saving heavy truck tire line-up. This does not, however, seem to be reflected in these ratings, as well as the potential upcoming release of Goodyear’s patented electricity generating tires, which could move them much higher in the clean technology ratings (“Goodyear Launches New Fuel Max LHS Tire” 1). Again, Cooper lags behind the Big 3 on this research and development category.

 

MSCI Water Stress Ratings
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
7.3 6.3 3.4 Unrated

 

In this metric, Goodyear leads with its water stress ratings. Goodyear plants are designed to capture rainwater for use, and also filter and reclaim used water for steam needs. To reduce potential environmental pollution, no Goodyear plant is supposed to have wastewater drains that lead off their self-contained property (2015 Goodyear Annual Report). Bridgestone joins Goodyear in high marks where normally high ranking Michelin lags, and Cooper refuses to report its water handling and usage policies.

 

 

MSCI Product Safety and Quality Ratings
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
3.3 3.3 1.2 3.6

 

With product safety to consumers, all of the Tire Industry falls below industry norms due to the competitive balance between product price competitiveness and the high level of liability that accompanies a tire failure. It seems that, historically, the ranking among the tire manufacturers varies with Michelin currently the target of dangerous tire failures to consumers.

 

MSCI Labor Management Ratings
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
3.9 2.2 5.0 4.6

 

Goodyear ranks third of the four companies in labor relation policies, with Japanese owned Bridgestone a distant last place. Several labor relations issues followed when they acquired U.S. based Firestone in 1988 as Japanese management policies have been at odds with U.S. union labor culture for decades. Many analysts believe that either poorly trained strike breaking workers or intentional poor workmanship by disgruntled workers was the root cause of one of the product liability’s largest recalls in history: the 2000-2002 Ford Explorer Firestone tire blowout crashes that resulted in costs of $3 billion dollars (“Strikes, Scabs and Tread Separations: Labor Strife and the Production of Defective Bridgestone/Firestone Tires” 255-258).

 

 

                                                          MSCI Health and Safety Ratings
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
8.7 7.6 5.3 Not Rated

 

In employee health and safety ratings, Goodyear leads its peers by a large margin. The costs of settling several large lawsuits over the past 20 years has motivated management to create strict workplace safety regulations. French owned Michelin came in a third place and American rival Cooper was unrated for health and safety.

 

MSCI Corporate Governance Ratings
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
5.1 6.3 7.9 6.8

 

Goodyear held a last place ranking on corporate governance rankings. Analysts’ commentary on the matter suggest that until recently Goodyear’s board of directors was comprised of an excess number of current and former insiders (“Consider Goodyear for the New Year” 1).

 

Anticompetitive Practices
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
4.2 4.2 5.0 Not Rated

 

Goodyear tied Bridgestone for second place in ratings for anticompetitive practices. In 1995, all four companies were investigated for alleged violations of U.S. antitrust laws. The 1995 justice department probe was the fourth for Goodyear, each investigation yielding insufficient evidence to bring charges. However, Cooper’s European subsidiary was convicted of violation of trust regulations in England, which was later reversed on appeal. The capital intensive barriers to entry of the tire industry for new competitors leaves the industry ripe for price cooperation among existing companies.

 

Business Ethics and Fraud
Goodyear Bridgestone Michelin Cooper
4.2 5.0 5.0 Not Rated

 

The MSCI ratings for management ethics and fraud are relatively consistent among the Big 3 with Cooper tire again unrated on this metric. However, Goodyear does rank last of the Big 3, with some of its score discounted, possibly due to the four antitrust investigations and  large civil settlement and precedent setting court case “Bahena vs. Goodyear,” where evidence showed that Goodyear managers deliberately withheld evidence in a product liability suit  (www/leagle.com/nco 201007 p235).

 

Concluding Remarks

Based strictly on MSCI corporate responsibility ratings, Goodyear would rank third of the four companies studied with its American rival Cooper in a distant 4th place, despite the fact that the overall MSCI score for both was a “BB”. A-rated Michelin leads “BBB” rated Bridgestone by a small and historically temporary margin. Over the past five years ratings, Michelin had averaged a single “B” rating behind Bridgestone’s average double “B”MSCI Rating. In financial performance, Goodyear appeared to rank last place of the four firms studied, with Cooper tire posting financials considerably higher than the Big 3, however Cooper’s short term profitability seems to be relative to their lack of leveraged growth and sustainability investments.

Despite Goodyear’s position in the rankings, analysts’ stock predictions for Goodyear’s future potential financials are more optimistic than any of the other companies. The support of stock analysts suggests that Goodyear is, at the core, a sound and responsible firm going through a temporary set of setbacks that began with the 2008 recession, and has been slower to recover than its foreign based peers. Overall, based on the unique industry hazards and Goodyear’s history of making corrections to its corporate direction following lapses of ethical behavior as can be evidenced by their superior handling of worker safety and waste dumping, we believe that Goodyear is an above average corporate citizen that recently has underperformed when compared to its peers in financial measures.

 

Works Cited

“Associate Volunteerism.” Goodyear Corporate. The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, 2016. https://corporate.goodyear.com/en-US/responsibility/community/community-support.html. Accessed 27 November 2016.

“Community Support.” Goodyear Corporate. The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, 2016. https://corporate.goodyear.com/en-US/responsibility/community/community-support.html. Accessed 27 November 2016.

“Company Spotlight: The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.” Marketwatch: Automotive 7.3 (2008): 15-22. Business Source Alumni Edition. Web. 23 Nov. 2016

“Consider Goodyear For The New Year.” Dow Theory Forecasts 72.1 (2016): 8. Business Source Alumni Edition. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

Criswell, Kristen. “Breaking through: Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.” Tire Review 2016: 16. Business Insights: Essentials. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

“Goodyear in Global Shake-Up In Pursuit Of ‘Added-Value’.” European Rubber Journal (2016): 0009. Business Source Premier. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

“Goodyear Launches New Fuel Max LHS Tire.” Bulk Transporter 77.11 (2015): 47. Business Source Alumni Edition. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

“Goodyear Pumped With Tire Profits.” Dow Theory Forecasts 71.27 (2015): 8. Business Source Alumni Edition. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

“Goodyear Fined For Conveyor Death.” Industrial Distribution 88.5 (1999): M4. Supplemental Index. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

“Goodyear picks PPG silica for SUV tire.” European Rubber Journal 2015: General OneFile. Web. 23 Nov. 2016

McNulty, Mike. “Goodyear Fined $1M+ For Danville Deaths.” Tire Business 34.15 (2016): 0003. Business Source Premier. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

“Natural rubber demand risks Asia’s ‘biodiversity’.” Tire Business 2015: Business Insights: Essentials. Web. 23 Nov. 2016

Pan Kwan Yuk “Goodyear takes $646m hit on Venezuela” Financial Times. Feb 9. 2016.

Pierce, Alan. “The Goodyear BHO3–A Car Tire That Generates Electricity.” Tech Directions 75.4 (2015): 8. Business Source Alumni Edition. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

“Safe.” Goodyear Corporate. The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, 2016. https://corporate.goodyear.com/en-US/responsibility/community/community-support.html. Accessed 27 November 2016.

“Smart.” Goodyear Corporate. The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, 2016. https://corporate.goodyear.com/en-US/responsibility/community/community-support.html. Accessed 27 November 2016.

“Sustainable.” Goodyear Corporate. The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, 2016. https://corporate.goodyear.com/en-US/responsibility/community/community-support.html. Accessed 27 November 2016.

“Sweet Spot.” Tire Business 34.5 (2016): 0013. Business Source Premier. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

“Tech News: Goodyear unveils electric car tires.” Electronics For You 2015: General OneFile. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

“The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company SWOT Analysis.” Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company SWOT Analysis (2015): 1-9. Business Source Alumni Edition. Web. 23 Nov.

General Motors: Social Stigmas Faced By Industrial Workers

Todd Benschneider

September 16, 2012

General Motors Recovery and the Influence of Social Stigmas Faced By Industrial Workers

           The 2008 bailout of General Motors remains a focal point of economics analysts and political journalists. Today, nearly four years after its corporate collapse, reporters alternate between glowing praise and sharp criticism. However, regardless of journalistic viewpoint, one fact cannot be ignored: General Motors has clawed its way back up Fortune Magazine 2012 rankings into 5th place of America’s largest revenue corporations (Morgenson 1).

The second observation that can not be ignored is that the press and public opinion during the recovery period have focused heavily on corporate leadership and the politicians who engineered the bailout.  A crucial factor missing from the news articles: The devotion shown by designers and assemblers at General Motors who have banded together to prove that they can produce a world class product at a competitive price. The thousands of headlines during the period the followed the auto industry meltdown reflect the values with which modern Americans view industrial workers, providing recognition to white collar workers and leaving unmentioned of the achievements from the engineering and the industrial trades, this shift in values may be contributing to declines in domestic production.

Much of this anti-union and industry sentiment results from taxpayer resentment of the government rescue of the world’s largest automaker General Motors, that left the American taxpayers owning 31.9% of the common stock. Today GM rightfully wages a daily war on two fronts: normal industry competition and now the new front of public relations, under a microscope of press scrutiny and public opinion. While this scrutiny seems to have generated results with increased accountability,  as units sales climb, product ratings improve and as profitability reaches new levels. This can be seen in the 2012 employee profit sharing plans, which will provide dividends to compensate for a large portion of the pay cuts hourly employees had accepted as part of the restructuring plan. According to an article in the New York Times that for 2012 it is projected that “45,000 union workers would receive profit-sharing checks averaging $4,300, the most in the company’s history” (Morgenson 4).

However, many industry critics present pessimistic statistics possibly influenced by political agendas and an ingrained anti-industrial sentiment. In an example, an article that opens with anti-Obama critique, industry writer Louis Woodhill wrote a scathing review of GM products in the August edition of Forbes under the shocking title “General Motors is Headed for Bankruptcy—Again”. In the article Woodhill interprets a scoring aspect of recent “Car and Driver” review with:

“Not only was the 2013 Malibu (183 points) crushed by the winning 2012 Volkswagen Passat (211 points), it was soundly beaten by the 2012 Honda Accord (198 points), a 5-model-year-old design due for replacement this fall. Worst of all, the 2013 Malibu scored (and placed) lower than the 2008 Malibu would have in the same test.”

Despite a moderate share of negative press many Americans, influenced by recession and unemployment are reconsidering purchasing American industrial products in hopes that their support will result in a mutually beneficial environment for the American economy. This attitude is shared in the New York Times news article titled “General Motors 2012 Earnings: Second Quarter”, which while presenting a negative spin on GM’s European subsidiary, the article does present a positive spin on GM’s domestic operations with the paragraph:

“In its new carnation, the automaker is proving that it can be profitable at a lower sales volume. The company announced in February 2011 that it earned 4.7 billion in 2012, the most in more than a decade. It was the first profitable year since 2004 for G.M. which became publicly traded in November 2012, ending a streak of losses totaling about $90 billion” (Morgenson 1).

However recently an equal number of industry writers have taken a middle of the road stance on the American auto industry such as the CNN Money article entitled “A Recovering GM is Losing Ground at Home” which despite opening with the statistic that GM lost nearly 2% of the domestic market share in 2012, the article goes on to cite the influence of external factors by quoting auto industry economist Sean McAlinden with “Its very complex, the latest downturn isn’t from lack of sales, it is the result of GM closing down 3 million units of production facilities to improve profitability.” The article also offers hope in the second paragraph with “The Cadillac division in coming months will benefit from two key new model introductions” (Levin 1).

Economists and political journalists write about GM leadership strategies and shareholder returns but ignores those autoworkers putting in the effort day after day to prove that they can once again dominate the global automobile market.  This critical public opinion of American manufacturers and the negative stigma of industrial trades is withoutquestion the greatest obstacle of corporate moral. The resulting negative self-image among industrial workers slows the progress of American industry and that anti-industrial sentiment begins with the attitudes that modern Americans view those industrial jobs.

Over the past 150 years careers in manufacturing goods that were once viewed as hi-tech careers are perceived by many with a negative stigma. This negative connotation is fostered through the American educational system, especially seen in views of the parents of school children in manufacturing communities. The attitudes being imbedded in schoolchildren are that by studying hard and earning professional credentials that they could escape a dirty and dangerous, low paying life of industrial work. Those children later grow into consumers that believe that through hard work and achievement that they “escaped industrial servitude” with careers in medicine, science and especially education and who grow  up to resent industrial workers earning similar wages who in their eyes have not earned the right to those wages through scholastic self-improvement. What many educated professionals do not realize is that those high paying industrial jobs need to offer compensation levels that can attract reliable workers to fill jobs with much less desirable working conditions.

These anti-industrial trade values are crippling todays American manufacturing companies, especially in the automobile industry. A slow drive throught the parking lot of any white collar company such as JP Morgan here in Tampa and you can count that nearly 85% of white collar workers in non-industrial cities buy foreign produced automobiles and the  15% of the exceptions to that rule are almost exculsively those few who desired the largest of SUV’s that do not have foreign counterparts. Polling these owners for an explanation, uncovers the nearly universal response offered by import owners, is their belief that the American manufacturers produce an inferior, unreliable product. Many that offer this assumption often admit that they had never owned a new American car for comparison, and deveolped these opinions from information from the press.

The declines in American manufacturing will likely continue until society offers industrial achievement similar recognition to those contributing to the advancements in computer technology and finance professions. You can not build a championship team without being able to recruit the best engineering talents entering the workforce and you can not obtain those cream of the crop graduates to accept a job in an industry with a sinking prestige factor.

Work Cited

Levin, Doron. “A Recovering GM is Losing Ground at Home”. CNN Money. May 11, 2012

http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2012/05/11/gm-2/

Ed. Morgenson, Gretchen. “General Motors 2012 Earnings: Second Quarter”. The New York  

Times. August 2, 2012

http://topics.nytimes.com/business/companies/general_motors_corporation/index

Woodhill, Louis. “General Motors is Headed for Bankruptcy –Again” . Forbes. August 15, 2012

http://forbes.com/sites/louiswoodhill/2012/08/15/general-motors

Big Sugar: Florida’s Sugar Industry and its Influence on U.S. Economic Policy

Research Article by Todd Benschneider:

Taxpayer subsidies of United States agricultural commodities have survived over 90 years of political attacks since their introduction in The Farm Bill of 1922. Today U.S. taxpayers pay nearly 20 billion dollars per year in direct farm subsidies, of which about 3% are spent on the Federal Sugar program. Farm Bill critics claim that farm price subsidies are counterproductive and restrict international trade. Supporters of the Federal Sugar Program argue that price supports are needed to compete in the international marketplace against the most economically advanced countries of the European Union and Japan that spend twice the amount per capita in agricultural subsidies. Subsidy supporters argue that price supports level out the peaks and valleys of price fluctuations which result in economic and government stability (Sumner, 2008).

In 1996, in response to growing voter outrage over the taxpayer support to some of Florida’s wealthiest and politically connected elite, Al Gore launched an attack on Florida’s sugar industry, promising to cut the subsidies to wealthy sugarcane growers and rescue the Florida Everglades from further agricultural contamination. However, Gore underestimated the political clout that the sugar growers possessed and found he was unable to deliver on that very heavily publicized campaign promise (Roberts, 1999).

The political influence that sugar growers continue to accumulate could be attributed to the millions of dollars in campaign contributions made by Florida sugar producers. According to investigative journalist Paul Roberts (1999):

“from 1990-1998…. sugarcane producers spent at least $26 million on everything from referendums to supporting Jeb Bush for governor in 1998 ….. and, America’s sugar industry is among the most subsidized on the planet, enjoying a domestic price of 22 cents a pound while producers in much of the rest of the world get about 8 cents. Each year, critics say, the federal sugar program not only adds $1.4 billion to consumers’ bills but funnels some $560 million of it back to domestic producers, who then funnel some back to Congress, which ensures the program’s reauthorization under the once-every-six-years Farm Bill. It’s a classic political love triangle, obscenely lucrative for the big corporate farms–Florida Crystals makes an extra $64 million annually under the program, followed closely by U.S. Sugar, at $55 million.”

Public backlash for Florida’s sugarcane industry is often attributed to several highly publicized expose’s that showed taxpayer money funnels straight into the pockets of wealthy sugar baron heirs, who use the monies to buy additional political alliances. Outspoken critics, such as Senator Charles Schumer of New York, described the subsidy as “one of the most invidious, inefficient, Byzantine, special-interest, Depression-era federal programs.” And according to Paul Roberts (1999) current perception has grown to believe that rather than provide aid to small family farms that the sugar subsidy actually serves to pamper several billionaire Miami playboys. Roberts describes in his Harpers article The Sweet Hereafter:

“The (Fanjul) brothers’ reclusiveness isn’t surprising. Whereas Fairbanks and U.S. Sugar have continued to bank on their image as sugar pioneers with close ties to the land, the Fanjuls have no such cachet. Rich, controversial, and Cuban-born, with Palm Beach mansions and a $500 million fortune (note: 2012 estimates of Fanjul brothers combined net worth estimate nearly to $100 billion) the brothers are easy targets for muckrakers from 60 Minutes to the National Enquirer, most of whom portray the Fanjuls, in not so subtle racist undertones, as symbols of why America is going down the toilet.”

Ending the cycle excesses allotted to Florida sugar barons are difficult to implement, because those subsides include allocations for many small farm operators in the mid-west who produce sugar beets, honey, maple syrup and corn. These subsidies are woven into the fabric of the American food supply chain and the sugar industry has grown so essential that price subsides are needed to create a diverse collection of producers. The governmental support functions as a hedge against shortages that would occur if any large region would suffer catastrophic crop losses (de Gorter etal, 2008).

Critics of the 1.4 billion dollar Federal Sugar program claim that it adds about 14 cents to every pound of sugar produced in the United States when compared to world sugar exports on the open market.  of which $560 million is sent directly to producers and estimates that $50 million goes directly into the pockets of the Fanjul family (Van Wyk 2013). Supporters of the domestic sugar program argue that foreign produced sugar also reaches the global marketplace with the aid of price supports from their exporting countries. In fact on supermarket shelves US sugar retails for around 39 cents per pound, priced much lower than sugar sold in France for 68 cents or Japan at $1.04 per pound (Pye-Smith, 2002). Paul Roberts (1999) summarized global sugar market data with: “When analysts factor in all sugar programs worldwide, the adjusted world price is around 16 cents a pound–or about a nickel less than American consumers are forced to pay.”

However unjustified the payments to the wealthy Fanjul family seem in the present political environment, it would be easy to overlook how sugar subsidies came into play and how the Fanjul family gained its political favors. The Fanjul family sugar venture began as a heavily subsidized pro-American propaganda tool at the height of the cold war. The Fanjul family, at one time, controlled the sugar production in Cuba until their family’s cropland was confiscated by Fidel Castro during the Cuban Revolution. The Fanjul family was forced to flee to Florida without much of their Cuban wealth and the plight of the once powerful Fanjul family became world news. The US government seized the international publicity as a propaganda opportunity and provided support to the Fanjuls to launch an American based sugar venture with the hope that their success would advance global support for American capitalism. If successful the new American sponsored Fanjul empire could also be used by politicians flood the world market with taxpayer subsidized sugar and devastate the rival Cuban economy that relied heavily on sugar exports. Success of American sugar would provide clear proof that capitalism would prevail over communism, and hopefully slow the communist global expansion (Warben, 2004).

However, today using tax dollars to support land that can barely support sustained sugar production no longer makes economic or political sense. “Paying lavish subsidies to produce sugar in Florida makes as much sense as creating a federal subsidy program to grow bananas in Massachusetts,” quips James Bovard of the virulently anti-subsidy Cato Institute. “The only thing that could make American sugarcane farmers competitive would be massive global warming (Roberts, 1999).”

Despite the widely publicized excesses and abuses of farm subsidies in general and the sugar program in specific, one simple truth continues to recur: Despite decades of  opposition, commodity subsidies including agricultural price supports have continued to survive unhampered by the best efforts of disgruntled taxpayers and political opposition. Price support advocates insist that price support programs are much more complicated than the limited perspective seen as increasing producer profits. Supporters of subsides suggests that subsidies need to protected in the interests of national security and global self-sufficiency. Many supporters believe that it is vital to economic growth to maintain domestic supplies of social and industrial staples such as agricultural commodities, petroleum, mining and timber. While most analysts agree that Americans could import these same commodities for lower costs than they are supplied domestically; however, doing so would result in dependence on those exporting nations which may be a larger risk that than the cost of subsidizing domestic production (De Gorter etal, 2008).

A supporting argument could be made that the United States is not alone in subsidizing major commodities, in fact every one of the top ten countries in GDP per capita production also subsidizes raw materials and agricultural commodities (Sumner, 2008). It could be argued that regardless of the drawbacks of taxpayer price supports that a century of economic natural selection suggests that the benefits of these supports outweigh negative impact that they have had on these nations’ economies. In Daniel Sumner’s article Agricultural Subsidy Programs he summarized:

“The highest national average support equivalent rates, across all major commodities, are offered in Norway, Switzerland, and Iceland, with average subsidies of about 65–75 percent of the value of production, and in Japan and Korea, with support rates of 60–65 percent. The lowest subsidy rates (less than 4 percent) are found in Australia and New Zealand. The average support rate in the European Union is about 35 percent of the value of production (Sumner, 2008).

It also seems worth noting that according to 2005 data published on the United Nations Development Programs website (data.undp.org/dataset/GDP) that four of the five countries providing the highest percentage of agricultural subsidies are also among the top twelve ranked countries in GDP per capita. Decades of agricultural subsidies among prosperous companies would suggest that it would be unlikely to conclude that the cost of the farm subsidy programs outweigh the economically stabilizing benefits. The website also provides a “Quality of Life Index for 2014” that ranks the top countries in the following order: Switzerland, United States, Germany, Sweden and Finland in terms of standards for living. All five top countries are also criticized for commodity subsides and production quotas (Zhu, 2010).

In conclusion, while the obvious costs and abuses of the Florida Sugar Industry are very similar to the drawbacks found in the national welfare system. In the American welfare system there are many obvious cases of abuse and excess; however, it would be difficult to predict how the economic impact if the social safety nets were removed. Much like the commodity subsidies, social welfare programs exist in every global superpower. Cutting costs on welfare programs has historically resulted in increased spending on law enforcement, expense in housing prisoners and mediating the costs of property crimes. The explosion in destitute poverty could quickly climb as citizens who have failed to assimilate into the workforce could no longer provide essential food and shelter, the civil unrest that often coincides extreme poverty often results in political instability. So much like welfare programs, the stability that results from supporting prices of commodities such as the sugar, oil and timber industries are not an easily measured expense to those of us who see only a small slice of how such subsidies are spent.

Historically individual grain and livestock farmers are capped to receive a limit of $100,000 per year in taxpayer subsidies to support their single family production operations, many with annual revenues of less than $200,000 per year. However; the design of the sugar program circumvents per farmer subsidy caps by way of subsidizing the market price of sugar by the pound rather than allocated as grain farmers in per acre farmed. This form of price support lends itself to exploitation by the two large corporate producers who control the production of 80 percent of American grown sugarcane, and as a politically embarrassing result funnels between $50 and $100 per year into the pockets of two immigrant billionaires: Alfy and Pepe Fanjul. Several million per year that the Fanjul brothers then kick-back to state and federal politicians who protect the sugar bill from tax reformers, environmentalists, labor lawyers (Pye-Smith, 2002). However, if history repeats itself, economic Darwinism will prevail and like the fate of many fortunes before, America can expect that it will be unlikely that this subsidized monopoly will survive for the heirs of the Fanjul fortune in the hundred years to come.

Work Cited

Bezdek, Roger H. “Oil And Gas Subsidies In Perspective.” World Oil 232.5 (2011): 21.

Business Source Premier. Web. 22 Jan. 2014

Daniel A. Sumner, “Agricultural Subsidy Programs.” The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.

2008. Library of Economics and Liberty. 22 January 2014.

<http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/AgriculturalSubsidyPrograms.html>.

de Gorter, Harry, David R. Just, and Jaclyn D. Kropp. “Cross-Subsidization Due To

Inframarginal Support In Agriculture: A General Theory And Empirical Evidence.” American

      Journal Of Agricultural Economics 90.1 (2008): 42-54. Business Source Premier. Web. 22

Jan. 2014.

Heitmann, John. “Raising Cane In The ‘Glades: The Global Sugar Trade And The

Transformation Of Florida, By Gail M. Hollander.” Journal Of Regional Science 51.1

(2011): 205-207. Business Source Premier. Web. 21 Jan. 2014.

Javers, Eamon. “Lobbyists Who Want Nothing.” Businessweek 4018 (2007): 72. Business Source   

         Premier. Web. 14 Jan. 2014.

Katel, Peter. “Letting The Water Run Into `Big Sugar’s’ Bowl.” Newsweek 127.10 (1996): 56.

Business Source Premier. Web. 21 Jan. 2014.

Peltier, Robert. “Busting myths.(Speaking of Power)(US government renewable energy subsidies

exceed those of fossil fuels)(Column).” Power 2011: 6. Academic OneFile.

Web. 22 Jan. 2014.

Pye-Smith, Charlie. The Subsidy Scandal : How Your Government Wastes Your Money To Wreck

       Your Environment / Charlie Pye-Smith. n.p.: London ; Sterling, VA : Earthscan, 2002.,

2002. University of South Florida Libraries Catalog. Web. 25 Jan. 2014.

Roberts, Paul. “The Sweet Hereafter.” Harper’s Magazine 299.1794 (1999): 54-68. OmniFile

        Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson). Web. 21 Jan. 2014

“Sugar Reforms Hard To Swallow For Exporters.” Emerging Markets Monitor 11.25 (2005): 21.

Van Wyk, Sydney. THE WASHINGTON TIMES. “A Fresh Attack On Sugar

Subsidies.” Washington Times, The (DC) (2013): 2.Regional Business News. Web. 14 Jan.

2014. Business Source Premier. Web. 14 Jan. 2014.

Warben-Findley, J. “Cold War In South Florida: Historic Resource Study.” Public Historian 28.2

(n.d.): 95-97. Arts & Humanities Citation Index. Web. 23 Jan. 2014.

Zhu, Xueqin, and Alfons Oude Lansink. “Impact Of CAP Subsidies On Technical Efficiency Of

Crop Farms In Germany, The Netherlands And Sweden.” Journal Of Agricultural

       Economics 61.3 (2010): 545-564. EconLit. Web. 22 Jan. 2014.

Consumer Resistance to Superior Technology: General Motors Hybrids, Siri and Video Messaging, Why are We So Slow to Adopt?

Todd Benschneider

University of South Florida
Revised 4/23/2018

When I first wrote the foundation for this article on “Consumer Resistance to General Motors Hybrid Vehicles” nearly six years ago, I was hoping to make sense of the unexpected marketing challenges that we uncovered when Americans proved surprisingly reluctant to purchase the General Motors electric and hybrid option vehicles in 2012.

The market timing of 2009-2012 seemed ideal for electric automobile technology, with record high fuel prices, deeper understandings of global warming and the inevitable decline of petroleum production in the coming century.

On the surface, it seemed to be a reasonable assumption in 2012, that industry projections for alternate fuel vehicles would become a reality and “most cars of  the future” (by 2020 was the expectation) would employ some form of electric or hybrid powertrain.

It is ironic how eight years into the future seemed limitless in its potential; but, eight years ago, feels like it was just yesterday.

How could anyone not want inexpensive clean energy cars; especially, ones that cost less than a dinosaur powered vehicle?

Few people would even argue that oil reserves could possibly sustain our current demand for gasoline for future generations.

The proposed electric car technology was reliable, those powertrains had proven their reliability for a decade of testing.

The price was certainly right, General Motors hybrid options for Buick Lacrosse and Chevrolet Malibu were priced the same as the gas versions and, as bonus, the hybrids were even more powerful and provided income tax credits.

How could that not sell like a syrup covered hot cake????

I still shake my head in amazement at how difficult it was to get rid of the hybrids we ordered in 2011 at our Buick-GMC store. Several sales managers would have probably been fired if our veteran inventory manager Sandy had not pushed back and insisted that we limit our initial order to six units rather than the twenty that I thought was a very modest forecast …. this was not her first rodeo.

Sandy probably saved my job and managed to dealer trade most of those six aged units from our inventory and I for one, learned a valuable lesson in product development: think twice before building a superior solution for customers who do not see a problem worth solving.

Since that realization I, like many in the industry, have concluded that unless government intervention mandates the phase out of petroleum powertrains, the adoption rate of electric-powered vehicles could take another two decades. Looking ahead now from 2018, I have adjusted my expectations down a few notches from back in 2012; now, I suspect that relying on the market demand alone to bring electric powertrains to full-scale adoption would be overly optimistic.

I find myself taunting the overzealous Tesla enthusiasts with history trivia that the automaker Detroit Electric nearly overtook gas automobiles in the early 1900s, selling over 13,000 electric cars that had top speed of 20 mph and a recharge range of 80 miles. A current Tesla 3 base model is rated for 220 miles of recharge range and with modern production capability has only recently surpassed 200,000 units sold. That seems like a miniscule amount of progress made across the 100 years of technology that evolved between the two.

It also seems unlikely that government intervention will mandate the phase-out of the internal combustion engine. Some assumptions could be made regarding the far-reaching economic disruptions to foreign trade markets, devastation to the economies of export countries, displaced petroleum workers, and the reallocation of every dollar generated throughout the gasoline supply chain, not to mention the economic impact to the plastics and chemical industries which rely on the waste byproducts of oil for cheap fundamental ingredients.

So, despite being a GM guy whose career was built on gas engine emissions and combustion technology, I must admit that I had been rooting for Elon Musk’s solar-powered auto revolution.  Mostly because, I hoped to avoid becoming one of those cynical old guys who fights progress, for no reason other than, maintaining a comfortable status-quo.

I am still optimistic that electric powertrains will become mainstream and that automobiles will convert to solar charged electricity before the rest of the power grid. However, I am imagining that the solar revolution will plod forward slowly for decades in a long-drawn-out guerilla war due to the lack of strong market pull for those alternative fuel vehicles while the petroleum industry survives long enough to support the codependent  plastics industry until renewable sourced manufacturing ingredients are developed.

Hopefully Tesla investors are long-range thinkers and have prepared for the long road ahead when consumer demand someday aligns with electric automobile technology. Recently Tesla’s investors had their confidence shaken when company stock prices dropped over 60% during the first week of April over a combination of news that was only slightly negative. If that bearish responsiveness is any indicator of the market, we could expect that a prolonged loss of investor confidence could snuff out the young company before they make it to the finish line.

Few people in the auto industry expect the Tesla plants to disappear or its existing cars to become obsolete. However, a sharp drop in Tesla market value will most likely lure General Motors or Toyota in to absorb the brand at a bargain price in the coming years. Unfortunately, if that happens, a Tesla surviving without Musk at the helm will probably see electric car technology being pushed to the back burner, adding several additional decades to reach full market potential.

It is times such as this that it becomes apparent that consumers (and voters) stated principals fail to correlate with their actions. This anomaly of consumer behavior manages to slow the adoption of superior technology for reasons that will remain a mystery.

My personal experience from being on the front lines, trying to persuade General Motors customers to buy the hybrid powertrain has burned this demand paradox into my view of most technological advances.

For now, we can appreciate how one man, Elon Musk, passionate about his vision for solar power has managed to get far enough to pose a serious market threat to all three economic super powers: auto manufacturing, petroleum and the global power grid. I tip my GM hat to the relentless visionary and hope he makes it to the finish line to prove the naysayers wrong.

tesla

As a matter of fact, back in 2012, I used to tell a similar story to this one about rates of technology adoption, it was my own story about the technology predictions of a decade earlier. In 2002, a full two years before Elon Musk joined Tesla, while he was busy building PayPal, I enrolled in an Automotive Technology program and was introduced to Professors suggesting that our class focus on the General Motors hybrid trucks and Chevrolet EV1 electric prototypes from the parking lot, since they would be the products in the market when we finished the program in 2005.

Not taking any credit away from the Tesla contributions, but electric and hybrid gas/electric models were well-developed by several large automakers and proven in field testing long prior to 2002. General Motors introduced the GM Impact electric car prototype in 1990 and revised it several times into the EV1 in 1996, adding the S10 EV truck in 1997, the duo sold around 1600 units from 1996 through 2002 when they were discontinued due to high replacement battery costs.

GM prepared the next generation of alternative fuel powertrains, this time using smaller batteries in combination with the standard gas engine, allowing drivers to select between gas and electric modes. The added value proposition to hybrid technology being that the hybrid optioned car could still be driven in standard gasoline mode if the customer chose not to spend the $10,000 plus to replace the batteries required for the electric mode.

In 2002, most of us in the GM world thought this hybrid technology would provide the company with the competitive edge needed to fend off the Japanese competitors in the global market. Inside GM, everyone seemed fully committed to the project and the service press even printed the repair manuals and training materials for an expected hybrid truck product release.

We were told that the first hybrids would release no later than 2005. Surprisingly though, with the exception of the quiet release of a small batch of hybrid tucks in 2005, General Motors delayed the marketing air campaign for hybrid offerings until 2009. The marketing launch failed to build the required buzz among consumers and even with $4 gas, the hybrids were seen by most as a dismal market flop. Some environmental critics claim that the marketing campaign was designed to flop with a hope of preserving GM’s previous investments in gas engine technology while also winning support of environmentally focused politicians.

Regardless of the motives of the ineffective marketing campaign, I was there when new customers came to our showrooms to test drive hybrid models, then agreed with the proposition of the revolutionary technology; but, when it came time to sign the finance contracts, the agreement fizzled out. Many of these deals fell apart in the finance office, when the customers began contemplating uncertain future repair costs, trade in values, warranty extensions and differences in insurance rates. It seemed like many feared that hybrids would be a passing fad and they could be stuck investing in a car that would have limited resale or trade in value.

In fact, from 2008 to 2018 the General Motors dealership I worked at sold around 8000 new vehicles and despite the huge bonus offered to sales staff and managers to improve sales of hybrids, the store sold a whopping total of sixteen hybrid cars in those nine years and nearly all of those were leases.

These thoughts came to mind earlier this week when having a conversation with friends about another ambitious prediction in tech news that, by 2020, over 90% of web traffic will be video rather than the text and image data of today.

Being jaded now by these types of predictions, I shared with them another related story, that just a couple of years earlier I had read a similarly optimistic prediction, that by 2020, few people would be texting and reading from their phones; instead, we would all be using Siri-like voice translators and listening to the replies of others through our cordless ear buds.

With the 2020 model year now only fifteen short months away, I realize that most of the auto manufacturing line equipment is currently tooling for that year’s production and my friends in engineering tell me that they are working from forecasts that fewer than 7% of GM vehicles sold in 2020 will be ordered with the hybrid powertrains.

With that fresh on my mind, I am sitting in the atrium lounge of the University of South Florida, surrounded by nearly a hundred of the youngest millennials and realized that they were all still texting from their phones and reading the responses. I will curb my enthusiasm for consumer technology adoption projections in the future…..  I am starting to see how old guys become so cynical

 

 

The foundation article from back in 2012, here is the research  on the state of fuel economy technology and the obstacles to adoption:

Continued Consumer Resistance to General Motors Hybrid Vehicle Technology  – November 7, 2012

EPA policies that affect the economy become front page news in an election year and the hot topic for 2012 is the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) revisions, requiring automakers to improve average automobile fuel economy from 29 mpg to 54.5 mpg over the next 13 years. Agreements to these revised fuel efficiency standards were concessions made by automakers during the industry bailouts of 2009.

In the backlash of that federal bailout, critics have been quick to fault American manufacturers for their lack of long-term planning. However, in defense of management strategy, the automakers have for decades been doing what profitable businesses do best, responding to consumer demand (Vlasic).

The press often suggests that domestic auto sales recovery will depend on the fuel economy of the products that manufacturers can provide. These critics assume that consumers make purchase decisions using primarily math and logic; but, those of us in the auto industry experience firsthand that purchase motives are more akin to purchasing fashions or artwork. To most Americans, their car is a part of their self-image, not just a tool that converts dollars into miles traveled.

Journalists such as News-Herald’s John Lasko write articles that with opening lines such as, “With gas prices hovering near $4 a gallon, many are opting to trade in their gas-guzzlers for more fuel-efficient vehicles.” With news headlines like those, it is easy for the public to conclude that the US automakers lack of sales was due to its heavy reliance on gas guzzling models. However, those assumptions are based on popular ideas that the domestic manufacturers previously lacked the capability to produce fuel-efficient vehicles. In their defense, the simple reality remains, the automakers must make their first priority to produce those vehicles that sell well in the domestic market.

The critics overlook the 3 million Chevrolet Chevettes that were produced between 1976 and 1987 or its domestic counterparts, the Plymouth Horizon and the Ford Fiesta that provided fuel efficiency equal to most economy cars on the market today. For example, the Chevrolet Chevette was for nearly a decade, the American flagship economy car, selling millions by providing a real world fuel economy of 25 city/ 30 hwy, or with a popular diesel engine option reaching 33 city/41 hwy. The Chevette was sold with a base price, that inflation adjusts to about $11,000 in today’s dollars and consistently surpassed the fuel economy ratings of it’s main Japanese competitor, the Toyota Corolla by nearly 2 mpg for nearly a decade (fueleconomy.gov).

Compare those cost and fuel efficiency ratings to today’s most economical products available in the US, the Korean made 2013 Hyundai Accent with an MSRP of $10,665 that is rated at 29 city/39 hwy. The comparison of these cars in the context of the 25 years of technology that evolved between them should dispel assumptions that Asian economy cars have enjoyed decades of superiority in fuel economy (fueleconomy.gov). However, in the American car market, every one of those fuel sipping economy cars was discontinued in the late 1980’s when sales dried up as the pendulum of automobile fashion swung toward a return of larger and more powerful transportation, with the introduction Sport Utility vehicles and the return of V8 powered high performance sedans.

By 1990, it became increasingly unfashionable to be seen in fuel-efficient cars, American auto style entered the age of the 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee, offering a taller ride height for a better visibility in traffic and providing the owner with a sense of safety and rugged capability. The Grand Cherokee became the benchmark to measure style popularity, marketed with an image of recreational outdoor travel and adventure rather than previous trend for economical commuter transport. These mid-sized all terrain Sport Utilities grew especially popular with female buyers in northern states, at the same time four-door 4×4 pickups became increasingly popular with young male buyers seeking that “Eddie Bauer” outdoorsy image.

Critics often ignore the strategic decisions that allocated research and development funding away from fuel economy and directed budgets to safety, performance and durability to meet the consumer demand curves. Over the past 15 years the average vehicle age alone has grown by a third to 10.8 years old with advancements in vehicle durability (USA Today). Additional progress that was made during that period to improve braking distances and implement crash avoidance technology reduced accident frequency and cut the percentage of crash fatalities in half. In an effort to appeal to consumer demands for more powerful accelerator pedals, 0-60 acceleration times have improved by over 40%. And to counter the reliability critics of the domestic cars from the 1980’s, the inflation adjusted annual maintenance costs have dropped by more than 80% (NADA.COM).

Today even after the industry collapse, American manufacturers once again dominate automobile industry technology development, General Motors again was ranked the 2011 No. 1 innovator in automotive patents by US patent board (Tuttle). However, consumer demand trends in automobiles are similar to those in fashion, with opposing trends recurring in 10-year cycles, such as style trends toward skinny jeans from bell bottoms and short carefully styled hair to today’s bushy headed natural hairstyles. Sociologists attribute 10-year style cycles to be dependent on the needs for generational self-image, as each generation makes fashion and identity statements to differentiate them from the previous generation.

Business Times writer Brad Tuttle suggests that the fuel economy trend that began in 08 will continue to gain momentum:

“A new True Car post traces the average miles-per-gallon rise among new cars sold
in the US… all of the top seven automakers posted dramatic year over year
increases in average miles per gallon. In 2011 the average new Ford got just 17.3
mpg compared with 22 mpg in February of 2012 … the rise comes primarily as a
result of Ford doubling sales of small cars such as the Fusion and Focus”
However, despite increases in economy cars sales, auto sales as a whole have risen, the demand is also increasing on 5-year-old full size SUV’s.

According to industry writer Nick Bunkley,
“Retail prices for five-year-old full size S.U.V.’s are 23 percent higher than a year ago
according to Edmunds.com, an automotive information Website. That is more than
double the average price increase of 11 percent for all five-year-old vehicles.”
One constant in the automobile industry, vehicle selection is an emotional decision more than it is an economic one. Customer buying motives first and foremost are influenced by how the vehicle makes them feel, a vehicle becomes one with the driver, it can allow them to feel bigger, more secure or more powerful. I recently encountered a perfect case that really defined the influence of self-identity on vehicle selection.

Carolyn, a 60-year-old widow and retired guidance counselor arrived at our Buick-GMC showroom in a well maintained, three-year-old, luxury four-wheel drive truck. Carolyn had gotten a letter from our used car department that high demand for trade-ins like her truck had currently driven trade-in values up thousands over the previous year. The letter encouraged her to consider upgrading soon, to take advantage of current trade in values for used 4×4’s.

The timing of the letter was perfect for Carolyn, since she had recently moved to Florida from the Midwest and no longer had the need for wintertime four-wheel drive; to further complicate matter the garage of her new condo also couldn’t accommodate the truck. She explained when she arrived, that she really wanted to reduce her fuel budget and downsize into one the new hybrid Buick Regal sedans she had been reading about in the newspapers, rated for twice the fuel economy of her truck.

Over the following week Carolyn test drove over a dozen of fuel-efficient sedans from ours and different dealerships including the Hybrid Regal that she initially planned to purchase. Despite our best efforts to persuade her to choose our last remaining hybrid, she instead opted to buy the high performance Regal T Type, performance sedan, that ironically provides an only a slight fuel economy advantage of 15% over the truck she was trading in and was priced thousands higher than the $28,000 hybrid version.

Carol admitted that when driving the cars rated highly for fuel efficiency she felt as if she had sacrificed the power that she was accustomed to and those low powered cars made her feel old and slow behind the wheel, she insisted that she “wasn’t ready to feel like an old lady toodling down the right lane, holding up traffic”. Carol’s time behind the wheel of the Regal Turbo made her feel young and put a smile on her face every time she pushed down on the accelerator pedal. For the sake of “feeling young” she was perfectly content to pay an extra $90 in monthly car payment for the high-performance engine and luxury options and disregard the $65 month in fuel savings that the hybrid version offered.

Think of the vehicle choices by comparing it to an airplane selection; imagine choosing between airplanes, where you could select a 2 seat Cessna that might make you feel like buzzing mosquito, or for another $150 a month, you could pilot the F-16 fighter jet or a Boeing 747 to work, ….to you, which of those options excites you? The difference it capability seems huge and imagine if the difference in increased fuel costs was only an additional $100 a month. The thrill of becoming something larger and more powerful and the status that comes with that ownership has an attraction beyond what can be measured in simple terms of transportation costs per mile. American buyers have consistently demonstrated that they are willing to sacrifice a larger part of their income to enjoy vehicles that provide them with excitement.

Current sedan trends are influenced by the fuel-efficient designs from Asian manufacturers, designed to handle the high taxes on Japanese gas and the shortage of open roads and parking space on the islands of Japan. Understanding the American tastes requires us to understand the differences in our driving habits and the luxuries of smooth, open roads that Americans can enjoy, foreign drivers are often limited in their ability to appreciate American tastes for size and horsepower.

However, in Australia, with road systems similar to the US, a huge market still exists for large SUV’s, trucks and big engine cars. A market that was penetrated in the 1990’s when many Japanese automakers began to design vehicles to cater to the American influenced market, with large gas guzzlers like the Nissan Armada, Toyota Sequoia and Honda Ridgeline ensured import survival during the SUV years, and most notably even those Japanese trucks and SUV’s suffer from slightly lower fuel economy ratings than the American SUV competitors.

It has been easy for the press to fault American automakers for their lack of vision in developing economy vehicles, and to blame management for not remaining competitive in fuel efficiency technology. However, despite almost a total lack of advertising dollars for large engine SUV’s, compounded by the handicaps of stale, aged-out designs and a decrease of sales incentives offered, the demand for large SUV’s is climbing back to nearly 2008 levels despite continued fuel cost nearing $4.

Over the past 30 years American consumers have voted with their wallets, fuel economy was considerably less important to them than size, safety, reliability and performance. The challenge that lies ahead is not to build smaller, less powerful cars as much as the need to direct energy-saving technology development at the powerful SUV’s and spirited sedans that consumers demand (nada.org).

Because for many Americans the automobile is more than transportation, it is a fashion decision as much as a financial decision, and many Americans have proven for decades that are perfectly willing to pay a premium to enjoy a few more smiles-per-gallon.

 

Work Cited

 

Bunkley, Nick. “As Car Owners Downsize, the Market Is Strong for Their Used S.U.V.’s.” New

York Times. 07 2012: n. page. Web. 7 Nov. 2012.

“Side By Side Economy Comparison.” fueleconomy.gov. US Environmental Protection Agency,

07 2012. Web. 7 Nov 2012.

Lasko, John. “Gas Prices Have Car Makers, Sellers, Buyers Looking at Fuel Efficiency.” The News

Herald. 30 2012: n. page. Web. 7 Nov. 2012.

. “Guidelines.” nada.com. National Automobile Dealers Association, 07 2012. Web. 7 Nov 2012.

Tuttle, Brad. “Even with $4 Gas, Few Drivers Choose Electric Cars – Or Even Hybrids.” Business

Time. 12 2012: n. page. Web. 7 Nov. 2012.

Vlasic, Bill. “U.S. Sets Higher Fuel Efficiency Standards.” New York Times. 28 2012: n. page. Web.

7 Nov. 2012.

“Our Cars are Getting Older, too: Average Age now 10.8 years.” USA Today. 01 2012: n. page.

Web. 7 Nov. 2012.

Continued Consumer Resistance to Fuel Efficency Technologies

12/09/2012 EPA policies that affect the economy become front page news in an election year and the hot topic for 2012 is the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) revisions, which automakers to improve average automobile fuel economy from 29 mpg to 54.5 mpg over the next 13 years. Agreements to these revised fuel efficiency standards were concessions made by automakers during the industry bailouts of 2009. In the backlash of that federal bailout, critics have been quick to fault American manufacturers for their lack of long term planning. However, in defense of management strategy, the automakers have for decades, simply been doing what profitable businesses do best, responding to consumer demand (Vlasic).

The press often suggests that domestic auto sales recovery will depend on the fuel economy of the products that manufacturers can provide. These critics assume that consumers make purchase decisions using primarily math and logic, those of us in the auto industry experience first hand purchase motives that are much more closely akin to the process of purchasing fashions or artwork. To most Americans, their car is a part of their self-image, not just a tool that converts dollars into miles traveled. Journalists such as News-Herald’s John Lasko write articles that with opening lines such as, “With gas prices hovering near $4 a gallon, many are opting to trade in their gas-guzzlers for more fuel-efficient vehicles.” With news headlines like those, it is easy for the public to conclude that the US automakers lack of sales was due to its heavy reliance on gas guzzling models. However, those assumptions are based on popular ideas that the domestic manufacturers previously lacked the capability to produce fuel efficient vehicles. In their defense, the simple reality remains, the automakers must make their first priority to produce those vehicles that sell well in the domestic market.

The critics overlook the 3 million Chevrolet Chevettes that were produced between 1976 and 1987 or its domestic counterparts, the Plymouth Horizon and the Ford Fiesta that provided fuel efficiency equal to most economy cars on the market today. For example, the Chevrolet Chevette was for nearly a decade, the American flagship economy car, selling millions by providing a real world fuel economy of 25 city/ 30 hwy, or with a popular diesel engine option reaching 33 city/41 hwy. The Chevette was sold with a base price, that inflation adjusts to about $11,000 in today’s dollars and consistently surpassed the fuel economy ratings of it’s main Japanese competitor, the Toyota Corolla by nearly 2 mpg for nearly a decade.

Compare those cost and fuel efficiency ratings to today’s most economical products available in the US, the Korean made 2013 Hyundai Accent with an MSRP of $10,665 that is rated at 29 city/39 hwy. The comparison of these cars in the context of the 25 years of technology that evolved between them should dispel assumptions that Asian economy cars have enjoyed decades of superiority in fuel economy (fueleconomy.gov). However, in the American car market, every one of those fuel sipping economy cars was discontinued in the late 1980’s when sales dried up as the pendulum of automobile fashion swung toward a return of larger and more powerful transportation, with the introduction Sport Utility vehicles and the return of V8 powered high performance sedans.

By 1990, it became increasingly uncool to be seen in fuel efficient cars, American auto fashion began to enter the age of the 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee, offering a taller ride height for a better visibility in traffic and providing the owner with a sense of safety and rugged capability. The Grand Cherokee became the benchmark to measure style popularity, marketed with an image of recreational outdoor travel and adventure rather than previous trend for  economical commuter transport. These mid-sized all terrain Sport Utilities grew especially popular with female buyers in northern states, at the same time four door 4×4 pickups became increasingly popular with young male buyers seeking that “Eddie Bauer” outdoorsy image.

Critics often ignore the strategic decisions that allocated research and development funding away from fuel economy and directed budgets to safety, performance and durability to meet the consumer demand curves. Over the past 15 years the average vehicle age alone has grown by a third to 10.8 years old with advancements in vehicle durability (USA Today).  Additional progress that was made during that period to improve braking distances and implement crash avoidance technology reduced accident frequency and cut the percentage of crash fatalities in half.  In an effort to appeal to consumer demands for more powerful accelerator pedals, 0-60 acceleration times have improved by over 40%. And to counter the reliability critics of the domestic cars from the 1980’s, the inflation adjusted annual maintenance costs have dropped by more than 80% (NADA.COM).

Today even after the industry collapse, American manufacturers once again dominate automobile industry technology development, General Motors again was ranked the 2011 No. 1 innovator in automotive patents by US patent board (Tuttle). However, consumer demand trends in automobiles are similar to those in fashion, with opposing trends recurring in 10 year cycles, such as style trends toward skinny jeans from bell bottoms and short carefully styled hair to today’s bushy headed natural hairstyles. Sociologists attribute 10 year style cycles to be dependent on the needs for generational self-image, as each generation makes fashion and identity statements to differentiate them from the previous generation.

Business Times writer Brad Tuttle suggests that the fuel economy trend that began in 08 will continue to gain momentum:

“A new True Car post traces the average miles-per-gallon rise among new cars sold

in the US… all of the top seven automakers posted dramatic year over year

increases in average miles per gallon. In 2011 the average new Ford got just 17.3

mpg compared with 22 mpg in February of 2012 … the rise comes primarily as a

result of Ford doubling sales of small cars such as the Fusion and Focus”

However, despite increases in economy cars sales, auto sales as a whole have risen, the demand is also increasing on 5 year old full size SUV’s. According to industry writer Nick Bunkley,

“Retail prices for five-year-old full size S.U.V.’s are 23 percent higher than a year ago

according to Edmunds.com, an automotive information Web Site. That is more than

double the average price increase of 11 percent for all five-year-old vehicles.”

One thing is constant in the automobile industry, vehicle selection is an emotional decision more than it is an economic one. Customer buying motives first and foremost are influenced by how the vehicle makes them feel, a vehicle becomes one with the driver, it can allow them to feel bigger, more secure or more powerful.  I recently encountered a perfect case that really defined the influence of self-identity on vehicle selection.

Carolyn, a 60 year old widow and retired guidance counselor arrived at our Buick-GMC showroom in a well maintained, three year-old, luxury four wheel drive truck. Carolyn had gotten a letter from our used car department that high demand for trade-ins like her truck had currently driven trade-in values up thousands over the previous year. The letter encouraged her to consider upgrading soon, to take advantage of current trade in values for used 4×4’s.

The timing of the letter was perfect for Carolyn, since she had recently moved to Florida from the Midwest and no longer had the need for wintertime four wheel drive; to further complicate matter the garage of her new condo also couldn’t accommodate the truck. She explained when she arrived, that she really wanted to reduce her fuel budget and downsize into one the new hybrid Buick Regal sedans she had been reading about in the newspapers, rated for twice the fuel economy of her truck.

Over the following week Carolyn test drove over a dozen of fuel efficient sedans from ours and different dealerships including the Hybrid Regal that she initially planned to purchase. Despite our best efforts to persuade her to choose our last remaining hybrid, she instead opted to buy the high performance Regal T Type, performance sedan, that ironically provides a only a slight fuel economy advantage of 15% over the truck she was trading in and was priced thousands higher than the $28,000 hybrid version.

Carol admitted that when driving the cars rated highly for fuel efficiency she felt as if she had sacrificed the power that she was accustomed to and those low powered cars made her feel old and slow behind the wheel, she insisted that she “wasn’t ready to feel like an old lady toodling down the right lane, holding up traffic”. Carol’s time behind the wheel of the Regal Turbo made her feel young and put a smile on her face every time she pushed down on the accelerator pedal. For the sake of “feeling young” she was perfectly content to pay an extra $90 in monthly car payment for the high performance engine and luxury options and also disregard the $65 month in fuel savings that the hybrid version offered.

Think of the vehicle choices by comparing it to an airplane selection; imagine choosing between airplanes, where you could select a 2 seat Cessna that might make you feel like buzzing mosquito, or for another $150 a month you could pilot the F-16 fighter jet or a Boeing 747 to work, ….to you which of those options excites you?. The difference it capability seems huge and the difference in increased fuel costs may only be an additional $100 a month. The thrill of becoming something larger and more powerful and the status that comes with that ownership has an attraction beyond what can be measured in simple terms of transportation costs per mile. American buyers have consistently demonstrated that they are willing to sacrifice a larger part of their income to enjoy vehicles that provide them with excitement.

Current sedan trends are being influenced by the fuel efficient designs from Asian manufacturers that were designed to handle the high taxes on Japanese gas and the shortage of open roads on the islands of Japan. Understanding the American tastes requires us to understand the differences in our driving habits, many countries do not have the smooth open roads that American can enjoy, foreign drivers are often limted in their ability to appreciate American tastes for size and horsepower. However in Australia, which has road systems similar to the US, they have a huge market for large SUV’s, trucks and big engined cars. During the 1990’s many Japanese automakers began to design vehicles to cater to the American market, large gas guzzlers like the Nissan Armada, Toyota Sequoia and Honda Ridgeline ensured import survival during the SUV years, and most notably those Japanese trucks and SUV’s suffer from slightly lower fuel economy ratings than the American SUV competitors.

It has been easy for the press to fault American automakers for their lack of vision in developing economy vehicles, and to blame management for not remaining competitive in fuel efficiency technology. However, despite almost a total lack of advertising dollars for large engine SUV’s, compounded by the handicaps of stale aged out designs and a decrease of discounts offered on the large SUVs, the demand for large SUV’s is climbing back to nearly 2008 levels despite continued fuel cost nearing $4.

Over the past 30 years, American consumers have voted with their wallets, which indicated that fuel economy has been considerably less important than size, safety, reliability and performance. The challenges that lie ahead are not building smaller, less powerful cars as much as directing energy saving technology development at the powerful SUV’s, light trucks and spirited sedans that American consumers demand.

Because for many Americans the automobile is more than simple transportation, it is as much an entertainment and fashion decision as a financial decision, and many of those Americans have proven for decades that they are perfectly willing to pay a premium to enjoy a few more smiles-per-gallon.

Work Cited

Bunkley, Nick. “As Car Owners Downsize, the Market Is Strong for Their Used S.U.V.’s.” New

                        York Times. 07 2012: n. page. Web. 7 Nov. 2012.

“Side By Side Economy Comparison.” fueleconomy.gov. US Environmental Protection Agency,

07 2012. Web. 7 Nov 2012.

Lasko, John. “Gas Prices Have Car Makers, Sellers, Buyers Looking at Fuel Efficiency.” The News

                       Herald. 30 2012: n. page. Web. 7 Nov. 2012.

. “Guidelines.” nada.com. National Automobile Dealers Association, 07 2012. Web. 7 Nov 2012.

Tuttle, Brad. “Even with $4 Gas, Few Drivers Choose Electric Cars – Or Even Hybrids.” Business

                          Time. 12 2012: n. page. Web. 7 Nov. 2012.

Vlasic, Bill. “U.S. Sets Higher Fuel Efficiency Standards.” New York Times. 28 2012: n. page. Web.

7 Nov. 2012.

“Our Cars are Getting Older, too: Average Age now 10.8 years.” USA Today. 01 2012: n. page.

Web. 7 Nov. 2012..