ELKHART, Ind.-Wheeltech North America Inc., a U.S.-based specialty tire and wheel subsidiary of Canada's Electra Group International, opened a factory/warehouse April 3 in Elkhart, the ``Recreational Vehicle Capital of the World.'' Company officials hope the firm's new facility, coupled with the introduction of a radial private brand tire, will help them pick up RV original equipment market share against the firm's primary competitors: Goodyear and Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.
Wheeltech's Elkhart facility-the company's third location along with one in Atlanta, and its headquarters in Toledo, Ohio-is equipped to mount and service tire and wheel packages on recreational and utility vehicles and boat, cargo and industrial trailers on a just-in-time basis, said Division Manager Scott Longanbach.
About 50 percent of all the RVs made in the U.S. are manufactured by firms in Elkhart.
Wheeltech, which focuses on supplying custom tire-and-wheel assemblies to OE manufacturers, wanted to tap into that OE business when it opened the 30,000-sq.-ft. factory/warehouse location, Mr. Longanbach said.
The additional business will mean a boost in replacement business as well, he added.
``The more units we sell at the OEM level, the more replacement and warranty stuff we'll do,'' Mr. Longanbach said.
The company has expanded its customer base ``tremendously'' as a result of the move, Mr. Longanbach said, noting the firm's sales increase this year ``is in the neighborhood of 40 percent.''
The Elkhart location, which employs eight, is hoping to increase its business by adding two daily work shifts, Mr. Longanbach said.
In April, Wheeltech also began distributing Electra's Free Spirit ST trailer service radial.
The Free Spirit ST is part of the line that also includes the Free Spirit and Free Spirit Plus passenger tires and Free Spirit GTS touring tire, a company spokeswoman said.
Wheeltech is the manufacturing unit of Waterloo, Ontario-based Electra Group, a tire and wheel company that also owns Treadway Exports Ltd., Tire Specialists Ltd. and Conestoga Tire & Rim Inc.