Originally from Scotland, Steve Brown has called Australia home since 2003 when he moved to Perth from the United Kingdom, seeking a lifestyle change for his wife and two daughters, first taking up a position following his chosen career in the oil and lubricants industry.
Four years later, Steve joined a tyre company and in January of this year made a move to Melbourne as General Manager, Continental Tyres of Australia. The new Australian business unit commenced operations mid 2008 and Steve has hit the ground running to build on the tyre brand’s reputation and successes.
He has a scientific background in physics and added to his credentials when in 2001 completed a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at Cass Business School in London, one of the most respected business education institutions in Europe.
His role with Continental in Australia is to promote the company’s tyre brands and grow the business in what is a highly competitive market where demanding operating conditions dictate a need for quality.
“In the Australian market, operators are looking for quality products suiting the application while delivering low cradle to grave costs,” Steve says. “From my perspective we can clearly demonstrate that Continental products are designed to meet those exacting criteria. Furthermore, as Australia plays a vital role in tyre research and development for Continental, the products we offer are built for conditions in this country and deliver definite savings.
“We divide our commercial activities into three segments: Goods – meaning all freight movements both long and short haul; People – covering bus and coach operation; and Construction – where operation can be on and off-road consisting of quarrying and normal construction equipment such as concrete agitators operating under severe conditions. All segments are addressed according to their unique operating requirements.”
While tyre testing is controlled from Germany, Continental has an ongoing test program underway in Australia at any one time, working with fleets demanding high vehicle utilisation on major freight routes and in vocational applications, covering all aspects of commercial vehicle operation.
Steve Brown’s extensive business acumen in Europe, dealing with the commercial transport sector, stands him in good seat in the Australian marketplace; however he is quick to point out that conditions in this country differ markedly.
“Australia is a big country and if you compare it to Europe, there is no matching of scale. In the vastness of Australia you can drive for hours and see only a handful of vehicles. That is not the experience over in Europe. Conditions at the top end of this country are completely different to those found in the south, or east and west, and we work diligently to provide quality tyres able to meet those challenges,” Steve points out.
“In my experience so far, Australia has some very pro-active operators running transport fleets who understand their customer demands and expectations. They know they cannot afford to have unscheduled downtime through tyre failure in the middle of nowhere. They are acutely aware of the importance of tyre choice and undertake maintenance programs to achieve the best from their equipment,” he says.
“Our company works closely with operators throughout Australia, providing expert advice on all aspects of tyre selection and maintenance to ensure value for money is achieved and this will continue.”
Continental has a strong relationship with OEMs in Europe including MAN, Scania, Mercedes-Benz and the Volvo Group along with Freightliner and Western Star and Steve will work closely with local manufacturers here to provide the best in tyre technology to meet an immense range of differing applications.
Growth is high on the agenda as the company’s profile increases and already there are signs of significant gains in this area. He will continue to expand on this and has already travelled extensively, getting a feel for product needs through customer relations and truck operation at the coal face of the industry.
“It is vital to talk to customers and gain a complete understanding of their transport activities. They are all very important and it is my intention to ensure all needs are addressed as we grow our presence in the market and our business.
“Two years ago Continental had just three people in Australia and today there are 15. As the business grows, we will continue to increase our employee numbers even further in 2010. We have a highly committed team and their ultimate aim is to establish Continental in this country as a leading brand as it is in other parts of the world. Engineering and quality has achieved this and from here we aim to make the tyres more readily available, more efficiently accessible to those in the Australian market,” he says.
Tyres4U has been the distributor for Continental in this country in a long term partnership of 30 years and according to Steve this will continue for both passenger and commercial tyre product ranges, and again there is an impetus on expanding the business.
“Tyres4U has built a strong business for Continental in this country and been an extremely valuable business partner. The company has established a strong network and Continental will continue this valued relationship,” he says.
New products are being introduced and in October the company will launch a new steer tyre, the HSR2, again designed for Australian conditions, complementing the HDR1 drive axle tyre and the HTR trailer tyre that are both strong performers and have been extremely successful in Australian commercial operations.
“The HTR has been commonly referred to as the best trailer tyre currently available, providing excellent mileage and performance in a variety of demanding roles. As I mentioned, we deliver value for money and this tyre is a case in point.
“Continental launches something new every year to offer commercial operators the very best. This is backed by quality people offering quality products working with clients to ensure their success, it’s as simple as that,” Steve indicates.
It is a long way from the autobahns of Europe to the Australian Outback but Steve Brown is becoming increasingly familiar with the unique operating conditions found down under. Challenges are there and his aim is to meet them head on.