NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario—Three things of note about China's truck tire industry: There's a big production overcapacity situation; retreading virtually is non-existent; and the process of radialization is coming to a close.
These facts are interrelated, according to Boudewijn De Loose, global marketing manager of Bekaert Corp. He was one of the speakers at the recent Rubber Association of Canada (RAC) 2013 Tire & Rubber Summit in Niagara Falls.
Similar to its passenger tire business, China is a major player in truck tire markets throughout the world, Mr. De Loose said.
Bekaert—which claims to hold a 25-percent share of the world steel cord market—pegs China's share of the North American market at 24 percent, in Europe and Russia 23 percent, Latin America 27 percent and Africa 72 percent. The company is a Belgian-based multinational cooperation that specializes in industrial wire rope, cable and specialized cover coatings for ropes and cables.
"What you're seeing here is that China has a very significant market share in all regions of the world," Mr. De Loose told the RAC summit.
Truck tire production in China hit 88 million units in 2012, he said, but production capacity is 120 million tires.
"Overcapacity is going to stay," he said. One reason for the huge capacity for new truck tires is that retreading is absent in China, according to the Bekaert executive.
"China has no retreading. If it had retreading like in the U.S., it would not need 60 million tires"—but rather, about half that number, he said.
Mr. De Loose said he expects truck tire retreading to come to China eventually, but the nation "absolutely is not ready for retreading, not anytime soon."
In China, fleets and the concept of cost-per-mile don't exist yet, he said, and most vehicles are owner-operated. Trucks are often overloaded, and tires are used until they are worn out and not suitable for retreading.
The executive also said the process of truck tire radialization in China is nearly finished. Unlike Europe and the U.S., where nearly all tires in use are radials, in China radialization will plateau at a lower level because a significant portion of the nation still has poor roads.
"Our thinking is that bias isn't dead, and radialization will be about 70, maybe 75 percent, but not 90 percent anytime soon," Mr. De Loose said.
In contrast, India's truck tire radialization probably will flatten at about 50 percent, because "India is a huge country and has more bad roads," he said. "Indian bias tires are very good and not disappearing anytime soon."
This report originally appeared in Rubber & Plastics News, an Akron-based sister publication of Tire Business.