ALEDO, Texas — About a year ago Brian Hubbard decided to form a new company along with a new tire brand and name it what he felt reflected Main Street America: Route 66 Tire and Rubber L.L.C.
Mr. Hubbard and his brother Gregg had begun a program to import and market ultra-high-performance passenger tires from China under the Route 66 label. Their plans were to sell 50,000 units per month.
Then last September President Barack Obama approved three years' worth of high tariffs on all Chinese passenger and light truck tire imports to the U.S. The new tariffs “completely killed that program,” Mr. Hubbard said of Route 66's plans. “It cost us $2.5 million a month in sales.”
Instead of letting the Route 66 concept die, Mr. Hubbard redirected his company, based in Aledo, to agricultural, medium truck and OTR tire applications, with the intent of developing full lines in those sectors. In May, Route 66 Farm Boy irrigation tires made by India's Speedways Rubber Co. began shipping to the U.S.
“We've bought a couple million dollars' worth (of product) this year,” Mr. Hubbard told Tire Business. “We're slowly building Speedways and Farm Boy.”
In July, Mr. Hubbard said his company brought in 11 containers of the Farm Boy tire line, and the goal is to import 100 for 2010. The Farm Boy line is available in size 11.2-38 with sizes 14.9-24 and 11.2-24 to be available next year, according to Mr. Hubbard.
Route 66 not only is importing irrigation tires by that name but also irrigation wheels made in China and a separate, patent-pending pivot wheel that's designed for tread-capped truck tire carcasses and can fit on pivot equipment, he said. The firm has set up production deals with three plants in China and three in India.
This month, Route 66 is launching a 380/85R34 Radial 2 Star tire and a 320/85R28 2 Star tire, with plans to add 30- and 40-inch radials in the spring, according to Mr. Hubbard. He added that Route 66 plans to have and introduce a full line of tractor tires in the most popular sizes during this year's Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas the first week of November.
The firm also is marketing in Central and South America, Canada and parts of Europe the Tri-Ace-brand passenger, light truck and medium truck tires made by China's Shandong Yongtai Chemical Group Co. Ltd.
Route 66 has partnered with Deal Tire & Wheel of Medley, Fla., which distributes Route 66 tires in the U.S., parts of Europe and Central America and South America.
In the U.S., dealers have the option of ordering product from Deal Tire's Miami warehouse or directly from China by the containerload, Mr. Hubbard said.
Route 66 also is trying to recruit five other distributors for the Midwest, Southeast, Northeast and the West Coast and give those wholesalers protected territories, he said.
Mr. Hubbard not only has partnered with Deal Tire on Route 66 distribution but he also works in Medley for Deal Tire as a salesman. Meanwhile, Gregg Hubbard works in Aledo as president of Route 66 along with two other people.
“It's kind of a funny relationship,” Mr. Hubbard said of Deal Tire. “I've known these guys for 25 years. I start telling them what I was going to do and they said, 'Why don't you come down to Miami and partner up with us?'”
He and Gregg Hubbard are sons of the late Bob Hubbard, a longtime TBC Corp. executive who helped develop TBC International. Prior to founding Route 66 Tire, Mr. Hubbard worked as national accounts manager for Greenball Corp., and he also worked for Johnson Tire in Anchorage, Alaska, and Tire Kingdom Inc.
Route 66's plans include introducing a specialty trailer tire line called Payload in roughly a month and developing medium truck and OTR tire lines, which he said he hopes to have ready for the SEMA Show.
“We decided to go and develop a (specialty trailer radial) line, develop other parts of the program, so that when the tariff does lift we have a total program from A to Z,” Mr. Hubbard said.
“I got nothing but time until the tariff lifts.”