AKRON (Sept. 6, 2002)—Group Michelin, via organic growth and despite unfavorable currency swings, edged back to the top of the ranking of the world's tire makers last year, posting 2001 tire sales of $13.4 billion, 1.7 percent better than in 2000, according to Tire Business' upcoming Global Tire Report. (Full details and a ranking of the 75 largest tire makers will appear in the Sept. 16, 2002, issue.)
Michelin's gains coincided with lower sales by Bridgestone Corp., the global leader the past two years. Bridgestone's well-publicized problems in North America left sales by the Bridge-stone/Firestone companies in the Americas 4.4 percent behind 2000, holding down Bridgestone's global tire sales to $13 billion, or 5.8 percent below the previous year when expressed in dollars.
Michelin added about $100 million in new revenues to 2001 sales through two moves the previous year—the creation of Michelin Shanghai Warrior Tire Co. Ltd. in China and the purchase of two tire plants and retreading and retail assets in Romania from Tofan Grup. These actions helped offset a decline in the euro-dollar exchange rate.
No. 3 Goodyear also reported lower tire sales last year vs. 2000, down 2 percent to $12.5 billion. That occurred despite the extra sales volume generated in North America by Ford Motor Co.'s recall of 13 million Firestone tires.
Goodyear's unit sales fell 1.8 percent to 219.3 million, but internally the company claims this still makes it the largest tire maker in the world on a unit basis.
From a profitability standpoint, Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. topped the charts. The South Korean company reported operating and net sales-to-earnings ratios of 8.5 and 2.1 percent, respectively, nosing out Michelin (6.6 and 2 percent) for the honors.
Four of the 11 tire makers with more than $1 billion in annual sales were in the red last year—Goodyear with a $203.6 million net loss, Continental ($231.2 million), Sumitomo ($59.3 million) and Kumho Industrial Co. Ltd. ($223.9 million). Only Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. and Hankook improved their earnings in 2001 over 2000.