By Bruce Davis, Tire Business staff
PASADENA, Md. (May 15, 2013) — China's Aeolus Tyre Co. Ltd., recognized primarily in the Americas up to now for its truck and OTR tires, has broadened its scope into the consumer tire arena and begun selling Aeolus-brand passenger and light truck tires in the U.S.
Former Kumho Tire USA Corp. executive Mike Leverington is heading up the consumer tire initiative, which follows Aeolus's decision a few years ago to build a $150 million car and light truck tire factory in Jiaozuo, Henan Province.
The Jiaozuo plant's production initially was committed to China and Europe, Mr. Leverington said, but as capacity ramps up, product is being made available for sale in North America as well. Mr. Leverington said the first U.S. shipments were being delivered to customers in the Northeast during late April/early May.
Alliance Tire Americas Inc. and Dynamic Tire Ltd. continue to handle Aeolus-brand truck and OTR tires in the U.S. and Canada, respectively.
Mr. Leverington intends to establish a U.S. office in the Baltimore area that likely will incorporate warehousing within two to three years. Until then customers' tires will be delivered on a containerload basis.
The first tires to hit the U.S. are the all-season HP AH01 and metric-sized AG02, Mr. Leverington said, explaining that developing all-season designs for the American market also factored into the timing of the brand's debut here.
Aeolus expects to have five all-season tires available this year. The next on tap are the Touring Ace A/S with ECO treatment, which will be targeted at the 70,000-mile treadlife category, and A/S AU02, a UHP design, and a derivative H/P A/S for the 60,000-mile category.
Aeolus Tire America will begin a consumer push in June with the launch of the AG03 Touring, supported with creative retail displays, said Mr. Leverington, who acknowledged that the fledgling company's No. 1 task is creating equity for a brand that has no history in this market.
Mr. Leverington said that means Aeolus will launch as a top tier 3/low tier 2 product, competing with brands like Nexen, Maxxis and/or Nitto. Longer term, Aeolus intends to build a full line consumer tire program in order to be among the top-rated Chinese brands, he added.
"We would like to be a 'global value leader,'" he said. "Think of value as being quality divided by price. The quotient equals value.
"Being a global value leader is a position that is much more than just price."
Aeolus also likely will highlight its efforts to be a green company, Mr. Leverington said. Because the company already is active in Europe, Aeolus's compounds use only PAH-free processing oils and other materials that comply with the EU Reach regulations governing hazardous materials.
Aeolus's new plant in Jiaozu opened last year with an initial capacity of about 3 million units a year, which is expected to grow to 8 million to 10 million units by 2014/15, Mr. Leverington said.
Combined with capacity at the firm's Qingdao, China, plant, Aeolus's total annual capacity for passenger/light truck tires will be 15 million units, he added, with up to 5 million earmarked for North America.
Founded in 1965, Aeolus is the fifth largest tire company in China and a Top 20 global tire manufacturer, with 2011 sales of $1.6 billion. It is one of four tire companies—along with China National Tyre & Rubber Guilin Co. Ltd., Double Happiness Tyre Industries Corp. Ltd. and Qingdao Rubber (Group) Co. Ltd.—owned in part by China National Chemical Corp.
The Aeolus (pronounced "Yo-lus" or "A-yo-lus") name draws on a mythic Greek ruler of the winds, Aeolus. The company also uses the Henan and Windpower brand names.
Aeolus already sells into South America and the Caribbean through its own subsidiary, Aeolus Tyre El-Caribe N.V., in Paramaribo, Suriname.