By Bruce Davis, Tire Business staff
WEST POINT, Miss. (Sept. 22, 2013) — With the first spadesful of Mississippi dirt still scattered about the groundbreaking site for Yokohama Tire Corp.'s $300 million truck and bus tire plant near West Point, attention is turning already to the project's second, third and eventually even fourth phases.
Yokohama has stated on a number of occasions that the West Point site can accommodate a plant four times the size of the one to be built over the coming two years — 1 million square feet and 1 million tires a day.
The 570-acre site eventually could be home to a plant covering up to 5 million square feet — or roughly 115 acres, as one speaker pointed out during ground-breaking ceremonies at the site — and capable of turning out 4 million tires annually with up to 2,000 employees.
The question at hand is how quickly that will occur.
Yokohama Tire and Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. executives are guarded in their assessment of how quickly the plant might proceed to the second and subsequent phases, saying market demand and conditions will influence that decision.
However, it's not just market demand and conditions in North America. The West Point plant is part of a larger, global growth strategy for Yokohama, which has pledged to add 20 million units of daily tire output to its global capacities by 2017.
Demand growth for truck tires throughout ASEAN — the Association of South East Asian Nations — and Europe will play a significant role in Yokohama's decision to expand West Point after it opens in October 2015, because the firm now sources a large percentage of the truck tires it sells in North America from a plant in Rayong Province, Thailand.
Since that plant also supplies customers throughout ASEAN and Europe, it's critical to have another source of truck tires to relieve pressure on that plant, which is being expanded as well, to 350,000 units a year.
To the casual observer attending the ground-breaking on Sept. 23, it would seem the plant's expansion to its fullest dimensions is a done deal and the quicker the better, based on comments made by a number of speakers from state and local governments and economic development agencies.