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Kumho Tires: A Possible Bridgestone Replacement

Negative CamberCorrespondent INovember 4, 2009

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 26:  Bridgestone slick tyres are seen in the paddock during previews to the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit on March 26, 2009 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

In my search for reactions to the big Bridgestone announcement—reactions that still are not forthcoming—I found a piece in the Ireland-based Independent .

Along with calling the tire manufacturer’s exit “the first major crisis” for Jean Todt (add to it Toyota’s exit), the paper also suggests that South Korean tire maker Kumho could fill the gap, given South Korea’s addition to the calendar.

It makes sense, and it also reaffirms that Bridgestone’s leadership probably was disillusioned with the lack of an American stop on the F1 season.

Here are a few highlights:

THE new FIA president, Jean Todt, faced the first major crisis of his tenure when Bridgestone said yesterday it will be withdrawing as the official tire supplier for Formula 1 when its contract runs out at the end of 2010.

[snip]

After embarrassment at Indianapolis in 2006, Michelin is unlikely to return, nor is Goodyear, but with South Korea joining the F1 calendar in 2010, it is possible that the Korean manufacturer Kuomo may step up.

With the addition of the Malaysian-backed Lotus F1 team and the coming South Korean stop, it feels like Formula 1 is firming itself up in a new area.

Abu Dhabi showcased F1’s “last new” frontier of the Middle East, and while the sport has been in Singapore already, what I’m thinking about is the business phenomena of “bunching.”

In short, that’s when like businesses all exist near each other. It’s what explains why a new fast-food joint will go in next door to an existing one rather than stake out a new area. People already are conditioned to go to that area to get their burgers and fries, so why fight it?

Alternatively, it seems like Bernie is strategically building outposts throughout the world that are diluting the “base” of Europe. This makes business sense as one wants to strategically grow in areas where there already is the infrastructure, so to speak, to support the business.

In F1 terms, that is the fanbase, but more importantly the supplier/sponsor/money base that will support a race (or two, or three).

Bernie has that, increasingly, in the Middle East. He may be getting it in southeast Asia.

Of course, as a result, he may be losing it in America.

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