Anyone who still doubts the growing impact of China on the tire industry ought to look no further than this year's Global Tire Report.
Consider that there are 19 Chinese companies ranked among the world's 75 largest tire companies in this year's report, based on 2004 sales. That's up by five tire makers in just one year.
The list includes the first billion-dollar tire manufacturer in China, Grandtour Tire (aka GiTi Tire), a collective of six individual Chinese tire makers with headquarters in Singapore.
Collectively, the 19 represent nearly $5.5 billion in sales, or about 6 percent of the estimated global tire business. This sum is about 35 percent larger than in 2003.
>From mid-2004 to mid-2005, expansion projects totaling more than $1 billion in China were disclosed-by both Chinese and international tire companies-bringing the investment dollars budgeted in the past four years to more than $2 billion.
Also consider this: There are now 160 tire plants in China with a U.S. Department of Transportation tire plant code, necessary for selling tires in the U.S. The list includes 25 DOT codes issued in just the past 18 months.
Also included in the DOT code total are 20 tire plants operated by a dozen non-Chinese tire makers and that collectively represent another $2 billion to $3 billion in sales.
The legion of U.S., European and Asian companies operating in China also continues to grow. The group is led by Bridgestone Corp. with three plants and Cheng Shin/Maxxis International, Group Michelin, Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. and Kenda Rubber Industrial Co. Ltd. each having two.
Hankook has the largest tire production capacity of the group, with its Chinese factories capable of producing 15.8 million tires annually.
And the list of foreign investment will grow in the next year or two as Pirelli S.p.A., Continental A.G. and Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. move into the world's most populous nation with joint ventures and/or acquisitions.
Several sources indicate there are more than 300 tire plants active in China, although a measurable percentage of them make only bicycle or scooter tires and tubes.
Need more? China is now the largest consumer of rubber in the world, eclipsing the U.S. two years ago in this honor.
Is it any wonder China is the No. 1 source of truck tires imported to the U.S. and accounted for more than $680 million in imports last year?
The dramatic growth in Chinese tire making capacity should erase any doubts about China's future role in the global tire business.