Bridgestone Corp. retained the title of world's No. 1 tire maker in 2009, edging out Group Michelin for the second straight year, but the overriding story of 2009 was the implosion of demand globally and the resultant shrinkage of the value of the world market.
The value of tire sales worldwide in 2009 shrank nearly 10 percent from 2008 to an estimated $126.5 billion. Sales reported by the world's 10 largest tire makers alone were $10.5 billion less than in 2008.
Bridgestone's tire-related sales of $20.5 billion, for example, were roughly 18 percent lower than in 2008. Michelin's sales of $19.6 billion were down nearly 10 percent, while No. 3 Goodyear's sales of $15.6 billion were off 14.5 percent. (See rankings pages 17-18.)
Bucking the trend among the top-tier tire makers were Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. of South Korea, Cheng Shin Rubber/Maxxis International of Taiwan and Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. Ltd. of China, which reported sales growth in their respective home currencies.
By virtue of their growth, Cheng Shin/Maxxis and Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber advanced to the 10th and 11th spots in the ranking, displacing Kumho, which slipped to 13th despite its slightly higher Korean won-denominated sales.
Companies from South Korea suffered in the ranking this year because the value of the Korean won in 2009 shifted 16 percent from 2008, more than any other country's currency. Tire Business uses an averaged annual exchange rate for calculating dollar values in an attempt to keep currency swings to a minimum.
New to the ranking this year are: Chaoyang Long March Tyre Co. Ltd., No. 57 with sales of $189.1 million; Beijing Shouchuang Tyre Co. Ltd., No. 64 with sales of $135.2 mlllion; Inoue Rubber (Thailand) Co. Ltd., No. 73 with sales of $68.3 million; and Ralson (India) Ltd., with sales of $67 million.
Falling out of the ranking were: Denman Tire Corp., which went bankrupt; JSC Dneproshina of Ukraine, for lack of updated data; Shandong Zhongce Tyre Co. Ltd., for lack of updated data; and Cia. Ecuatoriana del Caucho S.A., majority control of which was acquired last year by Continental A.G.
GPX International Tire Corp. is still included in this year's ranking despite its bankrupcy filing and subsequent liquidiation late last year because it achieved an estimated $300 million in sales before closing.
Likewise, Russia's Amtel N.V. is operating under bankruptcy protection and its future is unsure. Its estimated sales of $400 million were less than half of the 2008 total, in large part due to the divestiture of Vredestein Banden to India's Apollo Tyres Ltd.
Fiscal 2009 was a second straight year of disappointing financials for most of the industry.
Four of the 19 companies monitored reported net losses last year and only five reported improved earnings. The companies reported an average operating ratio of 4 percent and a net income ratio of just 0.3 percent (when Continental's $2.2 billion loss is discounted).
The Top 75 global tire companies are based in 23 countries. There are 20 companies from China along with 10 from India, five each from the U.S. and Taiwan, four each from Japan and Russia, three each from South Korea and Italy and two each from Indonesia, Iran, Thailand and Turkey.