PRINEVILLE, Ore.-In yet another sign that passenger tire retreading may be nearing extinction, Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc. has exited that business segment.
Formerly the largest independent passenger tire retreader in North America, Les Schwab began phasing out that business in late 1999 before retreading its last winter tire treads in December 2000, said Executive Vice President Dick Borgman.
The decision to halt production of passenger tire retreads came, he said, as the price differential between them and new tires had narrowed to only a few dollars.
In 1999, Les Schwab retreaded 156 units per day, which amounted to 1.41 million pounds of rubber, according to Tire Business rankings.
The dealership expects to easily replace its lost passenger tire retread business with its new tire offerings, Mr. Borgman said.
''(Passenger tire retreading) worked for us, and our customers were interested in having that as a choice,'' he told Tire Business. ``We just reached the point where the new tires were just about the same price, and it's a lot easier to buy a new tire than it is to make a retread.''
Schwab has sold its passenger retreading equipment to other dealerships, Mr. Borgman said, though he couldn't name them. He also said the firm wasn't expanding its truck tire retreading capacity to make up for the lost car tire retreading business.
The Prineville company's departure leaves Eastern Tire Service Ltd. of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, as the largest independent passenger tire retreader in North America, according to Tire Business. Eastern Tire in 2000 used 1.50 million pounds of tread rubber to produce 750 passenger and 80 light truck tire retreads per day.
Overall, car tire retreading is projected to drop below 600,000 units this year, reported Marvin Bozarth, executive director of the International Tire & Rubber Association. He said it was hard to ascertain how many passenger tire retreads are being produced because the same tread rubber used for car tire retreads also is used for light truck tire retreads.
He noted that not only is car tire retread production declining, but the network of those retreaders in each state also is gone. Dealers still in that business can make profits by retreading for special uses such as the U.S. Postal Service, he said, but ``if you're competing against tires that the retail dealers are offering as new, I don't think there's any way you can make money on it.''