By LOU WILIN
Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. is well-positioned for tire industry changes as a result of its high consumer ratings and adaptability, Brad Hughes, chief executive officer, said Tuesday.
“Things are changing. Consumers are more important, but we resonate with consumers,” Hughes said in a speech to Findlay Rotary Club.
Consumers take a more active role in their tire purchases, he said.
Ten years ago, people were more easily guided to a tire choice by a service technician. Today, 73 percent of consumers have researched tires online before buying them. In 50 percent of cases, they know what tire they will buy before they walk into a store, Hughes said.
Cooper has been adjusting to this new world. Last fall, it made itself a presence on the Tire Rack website, the largest independent e-commerce seller of tires and analyzer of tire performance, Hughes said.
“It’s important because about one-third of people that go online to do research on tires end up on the Tire Rack site,” he said. “If you’re not there, they think you’re either not very good or they don’t realize that you even exist in the category they are looking for.”
It’s a venue in which Cooper can thrive. Its tires rate well against the competition, he said.
Cooper’s tires have won the third-highest consumer recommendation rate, behind only Michelin and Pirelli, Hughes said. It’s an index measuring the frequency with which buyers of your brand would recommend it to someone else, versus buyers of your brand who would not.
“When people buy Cooper tires, they love Cooper tires,” Hughes said.
In head-to-head competition with other big-name tire brands, consumers usually buy the Cooper tire, he said.
In a direct choice between a Cooper tire and a Michelin tire, for example, consumers buy the Cooper tire 69 percent of the time, Hughes said.
“We provide great-performing tires at a lower price. People like that equation,” he said. “And then they come back. People are more loyal to the Cooper brand than they are to the others because we deliver what we say we are going to deliver.”
From the standpoint of shareholder returns, Cooper’s 18 percent rate of growth in its stock price since the 2008 market crash beats the rest of the tire industry and the S&P 500, Hughes said.
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