Raben Tire Co. Inc. will build a Michelin Retread Technologies (MRT) plant this year, making the Evansville-based dealer a Goodyear, Michelin and Bandag Inc. retreader.
Raben Tire, which previously had said it was planning an expansion, said the firm's fourth retread plant will be its first retread venture with Michelin North America Inc. President Tom Raben said the 17,000-sq.-ft. premold plant will be in Haubstadt, Ind. It will have an initial capacity of about 180 retreads a day though it won't start immediately at that. The company also will have the ability to ramp up the capacity in the future.
``We're going to push really hard to get it up and running,'' Mr. Raben told Tire Business. ``We'd love to be in business the first part of the year.''
Mr. Raben declined to say how much the company will invest in the new facility. The other three retread plants produced an average of about 325 units a day in 2003, and Mr. Raben said those plants are doing well but have some capacity left.
This month Raben Tire also is converting its Scott City, Mo., plant to the Goodyear system. The plant had been using the Oliver Rubber Co. process, which itself replaced the Bandag system there last December when Bandag didn't renew that franchise.
With the conversion, Raben Tire will operate Goodyear plants in Scott City and Clarksville, Ind., a Bandag plant in Evansville and the Michelin facility in Haubstadt.
Mr. Raben said he currently does not have any plans eventually to convert to just one system. He added that the plants run as separate entities with separate staffs, so it is not difficult for the dealership to operate various processes. ``There's nothing going away,'' he said. ``We're just adding another process.''
That addition has been the focus of talks between Michelin and Raben Tire for several years, Mr. Raben said. He said offering Michelin retreads will help the company reach new markets. ``The demand is there,'' he added. ``It's a business that we're not tapping at this point. That's why we're doing this.''
Michelin retreads will be offered through a range of Raben Tire's approximately 30 locations in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas. Goodyear and Bandag retreads also are offered in various locations. The dealership sells primarily Michelin and Goodyear new tires and handles commercial, passenger, farm, earthmover and other tires plus automotive service.
Michelin said its retreads are sold at more than 230 points of sale in North America. The Greenville, S.C.-based tire maker also said Raben Tire's plant will have the capability to retread Michelin's X One wide single truck tires.
``We are very pleased to add Raben Tire to our growing MRT network in North America,'' Tom Brennan, president of MRT, said.
Mr. Raben said time will tell what other expansions may be on the horizon.
``We're going to get this one on line and do everything we need to do to make it hum as best we can. Then, who knows? We never say never to any of that, but at this time I have no other plans for other plants we're working on,'' he said.