McPherse Thompson, Assistant Editor - Business
Lucalza Caribbean Limited, the company that acquired the local lubricant distribution arm of Chevron Corporation, says it is seeking to re-establish Goodyear among the leaders in the Jamaican tyre market, having been granted exclusive distributorship by the American manufacturer.
The contract was previously held by Danny Melville's Tropical Battery Limited.
Lucalza manager Brian McFarlane said Goodyear wants to "get the brand back to not the levels they were, (but) to recover some of the loss in the brand equity they had in Jamaica".
Lucalza has invested about US$1 million (about J$90 million) in the tyre sales network, having entered into partnership with Goodyear some 10 months ago, McFarlane said.
The American company four years ago exited Jamaica and began winding up its local subsidiary. At the time, Goodyear Jamaica operated as a wholesaler and marketing arm of the business. It sold tyres to Tropical Battery for retailing to end-users.
The Melvilles were chosen as distributors and retailers in September 2008, succeeding Tyre Sales, whose warehouse was gutted by fire the previous year. The Melville partnership marked a shift out of retail for Goodyear Jamaica. Eleven years before that, it had shuttered its manufacturing operation in Thomas.
The range of Goodyear tyres now being distributed by Kingston operation of Lucalza Caribbean is mostly for cars and commercial vehicles, including pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles.
"So we carry pretty much the full range but we don't distribute farm tyres because Goodyear ... came out of the farm tyre business about two years ago, and we don't distribute earth-moving tyres," McFarlane said.
Lucalza started business in Jamaica in November 2010 selling lubricants. A few months later, the parent company in Guatemala was engaged as a distributor for Goodyear in the Central American country.
More recently, the parent company also took over Goodyear's Caribbean and Central American warehouse in Panama, and has been using that location to supply tyres to other distributors in the two regions.
"So we are operating essentially from Jamaica, Guatemala and Panama," McFarlane said.
Lucalza currently sources Goodyear tyres from five main supply points - Brazil, North America, Thailand, Indonesia and China.
Although concentrating on marketing the Goodyear brand, Lucalza also distributes three other types of tyres associated with and engineered by Goodyear - the Kelly line, Blue Streak and Steelmark.
The tyre sells for premium prices at 15 per cent on average above other brands, McFarlane said.
The economy lines, Kelly and Blue Streak, are positioned to motorists who are budget sensitive.
Lucalza is currently rebuilding a dealership network in Jamaica for the Goodyear tyres, including former partners that were on board before Goodyear Jamaica exited.
"Some of them have come back on board and very soon we'll have the rest of them in the Corporate Area back on board," said Lucalza Sales Manager Dalton Dallas. Tropical Battery is among those already back on board, he said.
However, Dallas said it would take time for the dealerships to be fully established partly because "the landscape has sort of changed, in that most Jamaicans now prefer to buy a cheaper tyre, not necessarily the highest quality".
McFarlane said that was part of the challenge facing the company "to get people to say that buying a Goodyear tyre will be better, and it's really to get them to understand or to remember that taking the extra 10 or 20 per cent out of your pocket to buy a premium tyre is well worth it in terms of the performance and how long the tyre will last".
McFarlane said that while it is setting up the dealership network, motorists can buy from Lucalza's Marcus Garvey Drive complex at retail prices.
Dallas did not provide details, but said the company has seen steady growth in sales.
"We are not necessarily saying we'll get back to being the leading brand, but we want to capture a significant share of the market," the sales manager said.