AKRON-Equipment makers and users of farm tires are eyeing the United Rubber Workers' strike and wondering how long tire inventories will hold. Adding to the instability is the sale of Pirelli Armstrong Tire Corp.'s Des Moines, Iowa, plant to Titan Wheel International Inc. URW Local 164 struck the Iowa plant just before the deal closed and returned to work Aug. 24.
Goodyear is watching the situation closely, said a spokesman for the firm, considered the market share leader with about 30 percent of the replacement and half the OE markets.
Goodyear is the only major farm tire maker not involved in the strike and appears to be jockeying to gain additional market share. The company will discontinue certain small specialty tire lines by Oct. 15 and convert that production capacity to agricultural tires. The decision was unrelated to the strike, a spokesman said.
For now, most tractor makers and farmers are able to get the tires they need because it is not a strong buying season, said a spokesman for Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., which has workers striking its Des Moines farm tire plant. Most of the heavy buying is done in the spring as farmers gear up for the new growing season.
The strike hasn't had much effect on tractor makers Case Corp. or Ford New Holland Inc., company representatives said.
``The point is not whether it would cause problems, but when,'' a Ford New Holland spokesman said.
BFS is experiencing some shortages in a few farm tire lines, the firm's spokesman said.
The strike's effect on market share also is unclear at this point. BFS is considered the No. 2 supplier, with about one-third of replacement sales-roughly the same as Goodyear-and about 24 percent in OE.
And Titan hopes to make its mark on the farm tire industry, expanding production and adding more than 200 workers in 18 months, said Maurice Taylor Jr., Titan CEO and president.