ALEDO, TexasIn the six years since Brian and Gregg Hubbard formed Route 66 Tire and Rubber L.L.C., the firm and its Jalandhar, India-based partner, Speedways Rubber Co., have been on a mission to leave a big mark on the global ag tire market.
Over the last five years, Speedways' annual tire sales have grown nearly 10-fold to $130 million from $14 million globally, and the firm has doubled its plant capacity year-over-year during the same period, Brian Hubbard told Tire Business, making the claim that Speedways is the fastest growing ag (tire) company in the world.
Though the global ag market this year has been comparatively soft, Mr. Hubbard said Speedways' businessand by proxy Route 66'shas been on the upswing.
We want to be one of the global leaders in ag, and it's taking building the facilities and building the equipment and preparing in that direction so that we're not waiting on equipment, Mr. Hubbard said. We're building stuff, and somebody else will have to wait on equipment to catch up.
Route 66, which is the exclusive U.S. importer for Speedways' products, accounts for about 29 percent of the tire maker's business. Mr. Hubbard formed the company along with his brother Gregg in 2009, initially with the intention of importing and selling Chinese-made UHP passenger tires under the Route 66 label.
After President Barack Obama in 2009 approved three years of elevated tariffs on Chinese passenger and light truck tires imported to the U.S., those plans were scrapped.
Instead of shelving the brand, though, Mr. Hubbard shifted the firm's focus to agricultural, implement and OTR tires, partnering with Speedways to develop full product lines for those applications.
We had been doing business for years before that, Mr. Hubbard said of his company's relationship with Speedways. We decided on a project to revamp the plant, build more innovative products and be ahead of the curve, you might say.
With Mr. Hubbard serving as a consultant, Speedways proceeded to revamp its product lines. In May 2010, Speedways began shipping Route 66 FarmBoy-brand irrigation tires to the U.S.
There're some potato farms up in Idaho that have 10,000 irrigation tires on the ground, Mr. Hubbard said. It's a huge business, so we developed an irrigation tire, we shortened the bar on it, made it slender, we used the most advanced waxes we could for ozone retardant, and what happened the year we did it? Everybody had failures.
We told them, this is why we're doing this, he continued. The market had a disaster failure, and we were there to fill the void.
We came out of the box selling thousands of irrigation tires. We're probably in a good 15 percent of the major warehouses through the middle of the United States.
Since 2010, the company has expanded its line to include multiple private brands, including FarmBoy, Pay Load and Agro Land, along with Speedways' SWT brand. Mr. Hubbard said the Pay Dirt brand is expected to launch in the U.S. next spring.
Applications covered by the tires Route 66 imports have grown to include bias and radial tractor and row crop; irrigation drive (R-1); drive wheel (R-2 and R-3); agricultural and highway implement; flotation implement; forestry; bias light truck; skid steer; earthmover; excavator; and multi-purpose products, among others.
Route 66 will launch in October a zero-degree irrigation tire line, which Mr. Hubbard said is designed to provide superior forward and reverse traction due to a non-directional tread design. In addition, it can be mounted on a wheel and bolted onto the machine in any position, unlike a typical R-1 tire.
We have had ours developed on the drawing board for over two years, Mr. Hubbard said. We now have decided that it was time to bring out our latest superior product that shows why we are No. 1 globally in irrigation and set the standard for all others.
In addition, the firm is preparing to build 69-inch radial OTR tires. Speedways has already added some equipment to the plant but is still waiting for molds, Mr. Hubbard said. He estimated the line of giant OTR tires will be ready to ship in another two years.
Speedways Rubber, which was established in 1967, is among the top 10 largest tire producer in India, according to Tire Business' annual ranking of the world's tire makers. Mr. Hubbard said Speedways produces more than 1 million tires a year at a 1.5 million-sq.-ft. plant in Jalandhar, and the firm makes upward of 500 SKUs, with a presence in 75 countries worldwide.
Mr. Hubbard did not disclose how much Speedways has invested in upgrading its plant, but among its expansions the company has added one of the biggest mixing facilities in the world, an advanced rubber extruder bit and a full testing facility, allowing it to do its own compound testing under one roof.
When it comes to tires, heavier is not better, Mr. Hubbard noted.
More efficient, lighter, longer wearing, more impact resistantthat's better, he said. ...In order to do that you have to build better facilities, better capabilities.
For Speedways, efficiency in the manufacturing process has been the key to its success.
In India, the rubber market fluc-tuates up and down 2 percent, Mr. Hubbard said.
We have to make better, more efficient products...without using additives and regrind rubber to make a better product, but we still have to compete with Chinese tires. We don't want to build a cheaper productwe want to build a better product for less money.
On the U.S. end, Mr. Hubbard said one of Route 66's goals in the coming years is to build a distribution warehouse in the U.S. Right now, Speedways' tires are shipped directly to partner distributors.
We got it to where we control all the freight, he said. We have containers that actually sit at the plant so if somebody calls us up we now have a distribution warehouse. We can load that thing tonight and ship it to the port.
Whereas in India sometimes it takes two weeks to get containers, we have them on site at all times because we have agreements with the shipping company.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6148; Twitter: @Will_Schertz