AKRON-Much like the trend in the tire retail market, North America's largest retreaders are getting bigger, often absorbing small shops in their expansion. During the past year, at least seven of the 39 firms listed in TIRE BUSINESS' annual ranking of the continent's largest tire retreaders added plants to their operations and several plan to build or acquire more facilities this year.
An even greater number of firms chose to invest in new equipment and molds to boost capacity or optimize production efficiency, according to TIRE BUSINESS surveys.
The past year also saw two major acquisitions, both of which involved members of the 1994 TIRE BUSINESS ranking:
Lynn Strickland Sales & Service Inc., the 15th-largest truck tire retreader in 1993, became a division of GCR Truck Tire Centers Inc., the Akron-based retreading arm of Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. In the September acquisition, GCR bought Lynn Strickland's five stores and its plant in Birmingham, Ala., which is operating as Lynn Strickland/GCR.
GCR, now the ninth-largest truck retreader, also opened three retreading shops in Houston and Fort Worth, Texas, and in Kansas City, Kan., in 1994.
The largest OTR retreader, Brad Ragan Inc., acquired the market's seventh-largest retreader, Schultz's Inc. of Delano, Pa., last September. Brad Ragan, a Goodyear subsidiary, closed its Uniontown, Pa., plant, in 1994, due to labor union problems and duplication with the Delano plant.
Tire Centers Inc. of Akron made the most dramatic expansion among retreaders during the year. With the addition of two plants and a dramatic increase in medium truck retread production, North America's largest independent commercial dealership became the third-largest truck tire retreader in 1994. (See story on page 14.)
TIRE BUSINESS' annual retreader rankings are based on the amount of tread rubber companies' consumed. Figures provided by the companies show a majority of the passenger/light truck retreaders and OTR retreaders increased production last year and all but four truck tire retreaders boosted output for the year.
As in past years, Goodyear continued to dominate the medium truck retreading market as Les Schwab Tire Centers and Brad Ragan maintained their respective leadership in the passenger/light truck and OTR retread markets.
Fletcher's Cobre Tire, the only newcomer to the rankings, boosted its retreading capacity 30 percent with additional equipment at its Phoenix plant.