ESSEN, Germany — Taiwan’s Kenda Rubber Industrial Co. Ltd. is broadening its scope into the radial truck and bus tire sector, supported by the firm’s decision to build a dedicated truck tire factory in China, Kenda Chairman Ying-Ming Yang told Tire Business during this week’s Reifen Show in Essen.
Mr. Yang also confirmed reports that Kenda had been in the bidding last year for Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., saying he felt his company’s bid was of higher value than the one Cooper accepted from India’s Apollo Tyre Co. Ltd. He declined to elaborate on why he thought Cooper opted for Apollo’s bid over Kenda’s.
Kenda’s decision to expand into truck tires runs parallel to the Taipei-based tire maker’s global expansion plans. Kenda recently opened a European headquarters in Oldenburg, Germany, and hired Tom Williams, chief engineer at Hankook Tire America Corp. for the past 21 years, to head up a project to restructure and expand the firm’s research and development efforts worldwide.
The new truck/bus tire plant will be built on land near its existing car tire plant in Kunshan, Jiangsu Province. Site preparation is under way, Mr. Yang said, with production expected to begin by 2016. Mr. Yang declined to provide investment or capacity details for the project, but media reports from Taiwan and China put the value of the project at more than $100 million for a plant capable of about 6,000 units a day.
Mr. Yang, who was present at Reifen to support the firm’s expanded sales and marketing presence in Europe, said the plant’s output would be directed predominantly at the Chinese market, at least initially.
Mr. Yang declined to say how much additional revenue he thought the truck/bus radial business would yield. Kenda was the No. 30 tire maker in 2012 with sales of $1.06 billion, according to Tire Business’ annual survey of the global industry.
Opening a sales office in Germany is central to Kenda’s plan to establish itself on a broader scale in Europe, the company said. Up to now the company has been present in a number of countries, notably France, Spain, the United Kingdom and Italy, but now sees the need for a continent-wide presence.
Kenda hired Michael Andre, previously head of Giti Tire Deutschland G.m.b.H., to head up the German sales effort as marketing and sales manager, Kenda Rubber Industrial Co. Europe G.m.b.H.
“Together with the development of an attractive brand image and the formation of a network of dedicated sales partners, quality is one of our three pillars for success in Europe,” Mr. Andre said. Among other goals will be to build an OE presence, he said.
Kenda also took another step recently to solidify its European credentials: joining the Imported Tyre Manufacturers’ Association (ITMA), a U.K.-based trade group that represents the interests of tire manufacturers who do not produce in Europe. It informs members about legal requirements and technical regulations and provides a forum through which tire manufacturers can share their views and opinions.