FRANKLIN, Tenn.A seed on steroids is how Ding YuHua, chairman of Triangle Group Co. Ltd., described the plans of his company to expand its business and build its brand globally.
The cornerstone of that business plan was laid Nov. 2 at a
ribbon-cutting ceremony in Franklin for Triangle Tire U.S.A. L.L.C., the U.S. sales company for Triangle.
Triangle Tire North America is a 75/25 joint venture between Trianglethird-largest tire maker in China and 14th-largest in the worldand Oriente Triangle, the Miami-based distributor of the Triangle brand throughout Latin America.
Accompanying Mr. Ding at the ceremony were many Chinese and U.S. dignitaries, including Gustavo Lima, CEO of Oriente Triangle Latin America Inc.; Zhao XiDian, deputy mayor of Weihai, China, Triangle's headquarters city; Ken Moore, mayor of Franklin; Rogers Anderson, mayor of Williamson County, Tenn.; and Matt Largen of the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce.
On April 8traditionally the Buddha's birthdayTriangle will celebrate its 40th anniversary in Weihai, china, Mr. Ding said at the ceremony, noting the company distributes its tires in more than 170 countries.
Triangle Tire USA will coordinate its efforts with those of A3T L.L.C., its Akron technical liaison office, which employs more than 20, he said. This is in keeping with Triangle's commitment to technological advancement, according to Mr. Ding.
Triangle has the only national laboratory for tires in China, he claimed. The company holds more than 340 patents in China and more than 80 worldwide, and in 2008 won China's National Technology Prize for its new tire technology, he said.
The company already supplies original equipment tires to such companies as General Motors Co., Caterpillar Inc. and the Daewoo Group, according to Mr. Ding.
Franklin is also the headquarters city for Nissan Motor Co. U.S.A., but although Triangle plans to build its OE business long-term, it is not doing so with any specific auto maker in mind, he said.
Both Mr. Ding and Mr. Lima said Triangle is considering the construction of a manufacturing facility outside of China. But those discussions are still in the feasibility stage, and Mr. Ding said the company is not ready to reveal any possible sites for the plant.
Like most other Chinese manufacturers, Triangle is subject to stiff antidumping and countervailing duties levied earlier this year by the U.S. government. Although those duties are problematic, Triangle is not deterred in its long-term project to build its brand, Mr. Lima said.
The company has many products it can distribute in the U.S. that are unaffected by the duties, including its TBR truck tires and its ST trailer tires. Its off-the-road tires are affected by their own set of duties, but Triangle is still planning to distribute them in the U.S., he said.
We also have some high-performance and super-high-performance tires we can sell here, he said. But you must remember this is only the beginning of something very big.
Mr. Lima singled out several people for their help in closing the deal in Franklin, especially Manny Cicero, a tire industry consultant and former president of Alliance Tires Americas Inc.
I was just helping out, Mr. Cicero said in his role in establishing Triangle Tire North America in Franklin. They wanted a U.S. office and asked me whether I could help.
I told them that Middle Tennessee is within a 12-hour drive of 50 percent of the U.S. population. I told them that the Nashville (Tenn.) area is becoming a headquarters hub for tire companies. I told them that it is relatively easy here to assemble a great team of employees experienced in all aspects of the tire business.
And I told them that Nashville is so hoton the A-list of everything.
The ribbon-cutting was supposed to be an outside ceremony, but clouds and rain moved the ceremony indoors. However, Mr. Ding said this actually was fortunate.
In China, he said, rain means wealth.
To reach this reporter: mmoore@ crain.com