By Stephen Downer, Special to Tire Business
SAN RAFAEL, CUAUHTÉMOC, Mexico — Excessive used tire imports are damaging Mexico's new tire replacement market and endangering the lives of its citizens, the president of the country's rubber industry body said.
“We are quite satisfied with the general sense of the way the industry is moving,” Tom Grávalos, president of the Cámara Nacional de la Industria Hulera (CNIH), told Tire Business in a telephone interview.
“What I'm not happy about is the number of used tires being imported into Mexico.”
The federal government, according to Mr. Grávalos, authorizes the importation of 806,000 used tires a year.
“What actually happens is that significantly more” are being imported, said Mr. Grávalos, also CEO and managing director of Pirelli & C. S.p.A. subsidiary Pirelli Neumáticos de México SA de CV. He has headed CNIH for a year. His administration will be over at the end of 2016, and he said he has been asked to stand for a second term.
According to statistics provided by Mr. Grávalos, the imports problem is worsening. In 2011, 940,000 used tires were imported. In 2012 the number was 1.064 million, followed by1.065 million in 2013, 1.029 million in 2014 and 1.112 million last year.
“The reason we object to this as an industry is that it consumes part of our market. But somebody took them off a car for a reason and they are being sent down here to use the last few miles and we have to dispose of them, and somewhere in the middle of that it doesn't seem right.”
Most used tires come from the United States. “It's not clear to me why countries allow this,” Mr. Grávalos said. “We are speaking to the government. We have suggested — and I have been clear about this — I think we should not be allowing used tires to come into the market.”
Clearly, he said, the imports are “near the end of their life. People with less (financial) resources end up buying them, and I'm not convinced we're doing them any favors as regards cost per mile.”
Mr. Grávalos said the issue is a regulatory one “that we will eventually have to come to terms with. It's not an easy thing because people who import and sell them (the tires) don't want their business terminated, but we continue to put pressure on because it's not in the country's best interests” to have the tires entering Mexico.
The association, he said, wants tires used in Mexico to be safer. “That's one of our goals. We want to improve road safety.”
In August 2013 CNIH embarked on a concerted effort to tackle Mexico's waste tire problem. Together with two other tire-related associations, it launched the so-called Plan de Manejo de Neumáticos Usados de Desecho — Plan for Handling Used and Waste Tires — to conform with norms established in 2011 by the country's environment and natural resources ministry (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, or SEMARNAT).
The plan covered 13-24-inch tires for passenger and commercial vehicles and stipulated ways in which the industry could cooperate with local and federal authorities to dispose of used tires.
Mr. Grávalos accepts that, despite the plan's existence, some tires are still not being disposed of properly. “They are being thrown out and end up in tiraderos (rubbish dumps), not all of them, but some. Some are being disposed of in the proper way, such as (in) cement.”
“We are working with local distributors and local authorities so there is a proper place for tires to go,” he continued. “We have clean up days that one of the tire companies will sponsor and we clean up.”
Mr. Grávalos, who completes 41 years in the tire industry in February 2016, said Mexico's internal replacement market is “in the range of 28 million to 30 million tires,” which indicates, he said, the importance of having strong tire disposal programs.
“We have been working with the government to create a proper tire disposal process. So, rather than being legislated into something that might not be so good, we are being proactive.
“That includes putting collection points in place, creating a culture where people can just leave tires with the dealer,” rather than throwing them in dumps.
The tire collection points have been installed “in every municipality of any consequence,” Mr. Grávalos said.
The other two organizations involved in the disposal plan are dealer and retreading body ANDELLAC (Asociación Nacional de Distribuidores de Llantas y Plantas Renovadoras AC) and importers group ANILLAC (Asociación de Importadores de Llantas AC).
CNIH was founded in 1943. “As an association,” Mr. Grávalos said, “we train people in such things as tire pressure, tread depth, proper disposal of used tires. We have training activities where people can learn about compounding or appropriate manufacturing technologies.”
He emphasized that “we are not just a tire association. We are a rubber association.” But he added that within the group, “tire-related companies are the big hitters — new tire manufacturers as well as retreaders.”
Stephen Downer is a Mexico-based freelance writer who covers that country and Latin America for Tire Business and its Latin America e-newsletter.