LAS VEGASMark Ma, founder, owner and top executive of contract tire producer HongKong Tri-Ace Tire Co. Ltd., is looking to move the Tri-Ace brand from a somewhat eclectic niche brand to a broader performance-oriented offering by establishing his own manufacturing capacity and opening a dedicated import and distribution company in the U.S.
Tri-Ace has budgeted $100 million to build a plant in AsiaMr. Ma is keeping its location under wraps for nowthat will enable the firm to broaden its product offering and escape the burden of U.S. import duties on tires produced in China, where the brand has been manufactured for the past decade.
Mr. Ma, a tire designer for South China Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd. and Shandong Yongtai Chemical Co. Ltd. for nearly three decades, established Tri-Ace Tire in 2002 in Hong Kong as the base of operations for an international tire company he envisioned.
He discussed his plans in a one-on-one conversation with Tire Business at his company's booth at the recent SEMA Show in Las Vegas.
He hired a team of former senior technical staff with experience at firms like Bridgestone Corp., Good-year and Michelin Group to design and develop tires. Mr. Ma also established off-take manufacturing contracts with several of China's leading tire makers, including Shandong Yongtai, Guangzhou Fengli Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd. and Qingdao Sentury Tire Co. Ltd.
Shandong Yongtai and Qingdao Sentury both were levied the lowest import duties by the U.S.in the 38- to 40-percent effective range, according to Commerce Department figures.
In the intervening years, Mr. Ma moved his technical development team to Taiwan to concentrate on the design and engineering of Tri-Ace and its associated Mark Ma and Black Bear brands.
Tri-Ace to date has concentrated on the performance end of the market in both passenger and light truck/SUV tires, including development of competition tires for rallying, off-road racing and drifting, Mr. Ma said, including tires for drifting that produce red, blue or green smoke.
The company expects to make a name for itself by concentrating on large-rim diameter tires at affordable prices, Mr. Ma said.
By establishing a dedicated manufacturing unit, Mr. Ma said he hopes Tri-Ace will be among the fastest to market with new products and even offer custom ordering down to an individual set of tires. In his conversation with Tire Business, Mr. Ma said his goal was a 90-day development cycle for new products.
In the U.S., where the company has been active since 2011, Tri-Ace set up Tri-Ace Wheel & Tire Corp. in Tulsa, Okla., and hired industry veteran Jack Bidding to run it. Mr. Bidding has decades of tire industry experience, having worked at BFGood-rich/Michelin North America Inc. and Bridgestone Americas in various retail and regional/national sales capacities.
The operation in Tulsa has warehousing capacity of about 20,000 units that Tri-Ace intends to use for back-filling orders and specialty orders, Mr. Bidding said. The company will continue to deal primarily in container-load deliveries, however, according to Mr. Ma.
With Mr. Bidding's input, Mr. Ma said he's hoping to develop Tri-Ace into what he called the world's next leading brand.
Mr. Bidding said he is working now to create a team of wholesale distributors that can help Tri-Ace recruit and develop a network of dealers specializing in vehicle customization and thus are familiar with and capable of handling large rim diameter tires and wheels.
Tri-Ace also plans to add radial truck/bus tires to the firm's mix, Messrs. Ma and Bidding said. Road trials are under way in North America, they said, without identifying who's conducting the trials.
Panyu, Guangzhou, China-based Tri-Ace is active globally selling tires in the Middle East, South America, Europe, Australia and other islands in the tropical Pacific Ocean.
The company uses a prancing horse as its symbolmark ma means horse in Mandarin, Mr. Ma said.
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