Chinese ownership has given new momentum to Italian tire maker Pirelli
Michael Wenderoth, an associate professor of marketing at Spain’s IE Business School, agrees, although he says it’s still too early to determine market success.
“It’s quite early in the smart tire market to declare anyone the victor,” Wenderoth says, noting that Pirelli’s rival, tire company Continental, also has similar smart tire technology.
Wenderoth adds that the key challenge facing Pirelli going forward is the need to quickly push further into China’s premium tire market. “If they show solid growth there, that will prove the acquisition by ChemChina made sense,” he says.
Premium usually means tires for the likes of BMW Mini, Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar and Land Rover, among others. Although no official market share ranking exists, Pirelli estimates that, in China, it has a share for the premium tire replacement market in the “high teens”.
Looking back, what gave Provera faith in the acquisition was a personal bond he developed with Ren Jianxin, founder of ChemChina, whom he first met 10 years ago.
ChemChina, founded in 1984, is a huge Chinese State-owned enterprise that began as a small solvents factory founded by Ren with a 10,000 yuan loan.
Ren created the ChemChina empire by taking control of more than 100 troubled State-owned chemical factories across China, with the government retaining ownership.
Today, ChemChina is China’s largest chemical company and a Global Fortune 500 enterprise. It has 160,000 employees, of whom 83,000 are overseas.
Provera immediately noticed Ren’s deep understanding of technology and appreciation for the skills of the huge corporation’s frontline employees.
“He understands that strategies are important, technology is key, but it is the skills of the people that really make projects successful,” Provera says.
Provera adds that he has a lot in common with Ren. He also is a leader who deeply appreciates the expertise of workers, in factories, in research labs and elsewhere.
“I often meet with our front-line workers to exchange views, which is important in delivering results that are consistent over the long term,” he says.
In Provera’s view, passion is the key ingredient to successful leadership. At the age of 70, he is full of energy. He wakes up early, works long hours and travels frequently to oversee Pirelli’s international operations. “The airplane for me is a part of my daily life. I don’t remember a week in which I didn’t take a plane,” he says.
Provera, due to retire in 2020, is in the process of selecting a successor. Asked how he would like his legacy to be seen, Provera says technology and tradition are the key. “We have a responsibility to run a brand steeped in tradition, (which) is leading on technology and has people at its heart.”