News from the World Tire / Tyre Industry
The tire industry is well-served by information. There are specialist trade journals on every continent, staffed by some very shrewd journalists. In addition, every manufacturer worth its salt has a PR department more than willing to produce press releases, information about the company and, on occasion, access to executives. However, from time to time events may occur which we wish to comment upon. They may be major changes, they may be relatively insignificant. They may even be amusing. Whatever they are, we have no axe to grind and no sponsors to influence our opinions so we hope the opinions we do venture can add to the industry conversation.
Bye Bye, Dunlop Tyres
It’s sad that Dunlop is severing its last ties with Britain. This was the company that first developed the pneumatic tyre. John Boyd Dunlop was not the inventor of the pneumatic tyre – that honour goes to Robert Thomson – but his company was the first to develop it. First for bicycle tyres and then for automotive tyres. Others soon followed. The Michelin brothers, Continental, Pirelli; all could see what a good idea it was but Dunlop was first in the field and it quickly prospered.
A surfeit of Conti tires?
So, Continental is increasing tire capacity at its Otrokovice factory for truck and bus tires. That's obviously good news for the tire makers in Otrokovice and it's also good news for the Commercial Vehicle Tires business unit at Continental. For many years this particular tire business unit was bleeding red ink so it's good to see Continental Tire showing some confidence in the future for truck tires. In fact it's showing rather more than "some confidence" in the future for truck tires - it's showing an awful lot of confidence in the future for truck tires.
America – the New Found Land for the Tire Industry?
Ever since the days of Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, North America has been the world’s biggest market for tires. As a result it was also the world’s biggest manufacturer of tires for many years, but no longer. The automobile might have been invented in Europe but it was in the USA that large-scale production and sales first took hold. In the first half of the twentieth century three quarters of all vehicles were located in the USA. And if three quarters of all vehicles were there it is a reasonable assumption that three quarters of all tires were there too. Even as late as 1980 the US accounted for almost half of the world vehicle parc. In those circumstances it was little wonder that the US tire manufacturers grew quickly and dominated the world industry. Goodyear was the largest tire manufacturer in the world by the 1920s and Firestone, US Rubber (Uniroyal) and BF Goodrich were not far behind. Even lesser brands such as General Tire and Mohawk Tire were significant tire manufacturers. It was little wonder that Akron was known as “Rubber Capital of the World”.
Yokohama & Kumho Tires - A marriage made in heaven?
So. Yokohoma and Kumho are getting together, are they. On 29th November the two tire manufacturers, Yokohama Rubber and Kumho Tire announced that they were planning to co-operate in R&D and back this up with purchases of shares in each others company. Is this a sign of strength as two companies get together to pool their resources? Two plus two equals five. Or perhaps it’s the tire industry equivalent of two invalids leaning on each other for mutual support.
Iranian Tyre Industry
After years of dispute, it looks as though Iran and the USA are coming to terms with each other. The six-month interim deal between Iran and the P5+1 countries, aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear programme, represents a welcome breakthrough for diplomacy and perhaps hints that Iran is rejoining the world economy once again. The sanctions which have been imposed are being eased a little but with the promise of more relaxation to come if negotiations proceed as hoped. There will be a long and arduous negotiation process but it could lead to a more comprehensive agreement and a gradual welcoming back of Iranian companies to the world economy.
But first, does this matter? How important is Iran in the world economy? Yes, it does matter and Iran is a large and important economy.
Manchester United - The Tire Team
What is it about Manchester United and tires? First came the news that Apollo Tyres has signed a three-year partnership with United which sees the company named as the official tyre for the club in both the UK and India. There were a few eyebrows raised at that news. Why did a tyre company want to be associated with a football club? Apart from the fact that the players would need tires for their Porsches and Ferraris there didn't seem much direct leverage.
Will Apollo Tires see a new dawn?
So, Apollo are going for the big time. The takeover bid for Cooper would vault the company from 16th place in global ranking to 7th, just below Sumitomo. If successful, this has been the latest in a number of shrewd strategic acquisitions that has moved Apollo from being a company based and operating in South Asia to a global player with plants in Europe, South Africa and now the USA and China: 14 plants in four continents. A turnover of $375million in 1998 has ballooned to $6.5 billion in 2012, or will do, provided it keeps all Cooper's dealers. In preparation for this new role it has adopted a whizzy new corporate livery – various shades of purple and orange.