The UK’s No. 1 tyre maker, Avon, is eyeing up the UAE marketplace – and it’s seeking out pole position. The well-known British brand has teamed up with Al Habtoor Motors to take to the roads of the Emirates and beyond. Joanna Andrews went to find out more from Avon…
The UAE automobile industry is firing on all cylinders. Over the past year Al Habtoor Motors has expanded its business significantly. It has opened up a string of new companies including SpeedFit and Car Zone Warehouse and struck exclusive deals with Energizer, Fix and Go as well as bringing new Asian brands to the UAE. Among the company’s new ventures, AHM has teamed up with British tyre maker, Avon, to bring the well-known British brand to the UAE.
Avon has been in business for more than a century. In fact, it has been making tyres since 1904; it has seen two world wars, and survived. It has also witnessed many financial cycles, and lived to tell the tale. Graham Mitchell from Cooper Tire and Rubber Company, who was in the UAE to certify the Avon deal with Al Habtoor Motors, says, “We are focusing on growth markets right now. Europe is struggling. Within our European business we are focusing on Russia and we are focusing on the Middle East.”
He adds, “We realised that by not having a presence in the region, we were missing out on opportunities. Until now, we were only scratching at the surface. So by investing in the Middle East and putting some stock on the ground, it shows the market how serious we are.”
Avon plays on its British appeal. Unlike many other brands with factories in Asian hinterlands, Avon is very much a British brand according to Mitchell, “Our flagship brand is designed, developed, tested and manufactured in Europe.” That’s not to say it doesn’t have a presence in Asia, on the contrary, it is opening up plants to produce some of its products for the global market.
Mitchell admits one of the biggest challenges is staying ahead of the competition, but he adds that Avon offers something most other tyre makers don’t, “Avon has a racing heritage and we use that to differentiate ourselves from some of the Asian brands or some of the eastern European brands that don’t have that.”
The company has a long and distinguished history in motorcycle racing. The first motorcycle tyre was manufactured in 1911 and, since then, champions such as Geoff Duke, John Surtees, Mike Hailwood and Barry Sheene have used - and won - on Avon.
The company has a well-known heritage in the markets it has long operated in - particular the UK and the US. Avon was acquired by Cooper Tire & Rubber Company in 1997. “That was a significant turning point for the company,” Mitchell adds. “Cooper purchased Avon for its ultra high performance technology.”
Cooper’s investment in Avon was a major turning point for the British tyre maker as Asian competitors started to take the global marketplace by storm. “It was a very dramatic change in Avon’s history. Cooper took it from being a local British business to an international global business with all of the requirements that come with that. It was a significant investment and it has been very positive,” Mitchell says.
Brand image is very important to Avon; it has long been associated with brands like Rolls Royce, Bentley and Aston Martin – among others. Which is why it was careful when it was looking for a partner in the UAE. “It is a good, strong market for us. We know there is huge potential for our product in this market and Al Habtoor Motors is hugely ambitious. Its plan with SpeedFit is perfect; it gets us a retail position and allows us to position our brand where we need to be positioned. We are the alternative sale for the customer who comes in to buy Michelin or Bridgestone.”
Karl Hamer, Managing Director, Al Habtoor Motors says, “To be honest I was amazed to discover that Avon didn’t have a presence in the UAE, because they are No. 1 in the UK. Last year circa 380,000 vehicles were sold here in the UAE. Our customers want quality, reliability and value. This brand is a world leader that is ideally suited for our market.”
The agreement is unique as Al Habtoor Motors has the distribution rights not just for the UAE, but for the entire GCC. Hamer adds, “We are very proud to be representing Avon Tyres in the Gulf. UAE-based companies have matured extremeley well since the global recession and have a real opportunity to become regional success stories.”
With the UAE’s discerning approach for quality, this agreement between two well-known brands, can only be a success.