While the opportunities and challenges for South African businesses may vary, based on their respective services and areas of operation, serious topics such as the power crisis and infrastructure decline are common to all. In an exclusive interview with Matt Livigni, the newly appointed MD for Continental Tyre SA, he stresses the importance of addressing the current challenges from a manufacturing perspective while outlining his vision and opportunities for the local tyre producer.
Matt’s career with Continental spans 33 years. Prior to joining Continental Tyre SA, Livigni was the MD of Continental Tire Canada for six years and also served as the executive director of the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada over the same period. Livigni succeeds Martin Buday, who headed up the South African operations from 2020 and has since been appointed to lead Continental’s South East Europe division. Livigni has held various roles at Continental, including sales, marketing, and product management, with a particular emphasis on the commercial vehicle tyre (CVT) segment. Between 2008 and 2013, he was Continental Tire’s Northern Region manager in the United States for CVT, followed by three years as the CVT Country manager for Canada before being appointed MD in 2017. He was appointed MD for CTSA in 2023.
Thank you for making the time to share your thoughts and objectives for CTSA, Matt. What were your initial perceptions of the South African tyre market?
My initial perception was that there is quite a bit of work to be done regarding the waste tyre management issue, which, if addressed correctly, could see many opportunities arising from tyre recycling and the by-products of these systems to create a circular economy that results in additional jobs for South Africans. It is equally important that we address, as a country, a viable solution to the energy crisis and infrastructure decline in order to safeguard the long-term sustainability of local tyre manufacturing in the country. Lastly, to promote sustainability and competitiveness, it is incredibly important for our industry to discourage the dumping of Chinese imports that could jeopardize the safety and job security of all South Africans who work or supply products to the tyre industry.
What are the primary areas of focus for you as you begin your current assignment?
My primary focus is on addressing the issues I have just mentioned, with a particular emphasis on ensuring the long-term sustainability of our plant here in Gqeberha by producing and selling competitive, high-quality tyre products and solutions to the local and export markets. Simultaneously, we are aiming to ensure a diverse and inclusive culture that adds value, not only to CTSA and its stakeholders but also fosters a sense of giving back to the local communities in which we work and live.
How big a role does exports play for CTSA?
Approximately 30 percent of our total production is dedicated to supporting other global markets within the Continental network.
Do you believe SA tyre producers are suitably equipped for long-term sustainability?
Yes, provided imports are controlled in a manner that promotes fair trade within the South African market. What will jeopardize the long-term sustainability of local production is the persistent unfair dumping of tyres into the local market.
What, in your view, are the biggest challenges SA’s four tyre producers currently face?
Again, as mentioned before, the energy crisis, unfair dumping of Chinese imports, the devaluation of the Rand, waste tyre management, infrastructure decline, and political instability, to name a few.
Do you believe an official body like the SATMC is important to the collective good of the SA tyre manufacturing sector?
Yes, especially considering the unique challenges we face in South Africa, the SATMC plays a crucial role in collectively addressing the current and future challenges and opportunities of our industry.
Will your Gqeberha plant be producing sustainable tyres in line with your global vision?
Our Gqeberha plant will, of course, adapt its technology in the coming years to support our global sustainability targets as an organization. In the short term, our focus is on generating sustainable energy. In fact, we recently signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) to acquire wind and solar energy in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber. This initiative, which will be in place by the end of 2024, will fulfill a large majority of our energy needs.
Are you planning any further investment in your SA plant, and if so, in which areas?
We are currently in the midst of a significant investment to support light truck production, recognizing the growth potential of this market, both locally and globally. Are you planning to release any new products during the next 12 months?
We have exciting and innovative products lined up for release over the next 12 months for both passenger and truck tyres. We are currently in the pre-launch stages, so stay tuned!
Will CTSA continue to import tyres for the bus and truck tyre sectors to meet customer demand?
Yes, however, this segment is currently facing significant challenges due to the dumping of Chinese truck tyres in the local market, which is why it is crucial to pass anti-dumping duties to support the long-term sustainability of this business.
Do you have any goals and aspirations for your BestDrive distribution chain?
Our goal for BestDrive is to be the best-in-class premium franchise network and fitment centers in South Africa. There is extensive work and planning with the BestDrive team to deliver on this initiative in years to come. One of our key target areas within the BestDrive distribution franchise is to lead in digitization.
How would you sum up your vision for CTSA?
Our vision is straightforward: to be the most value-creating tyre company in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Matt is married to Paula. They are both ‘foodies’ who appreciate good cuisine and fine wine. In their free time, they relax by playing tennis and taking long morning walks in their beautiful wildlife estate. As avid dog lovers, they are committed to welcoming rescue dogs into their family. Their latest rescue, Calvin Klein, sourced from Save-a-Pet SA, joins the family alongside their Chihuahua, Louis Vuitton.