AKRONCommercial dealers and retreaders throughout North America continue to struggle with an uneven economic recovery, uncertain energy costs and the impact of lower-cost imported tires from Asia, predominantly China.
From a sales perspective, just 19 of the Top 50 commercial dealerships ranked this year reported higher sales last year vs. 2014, while a dozen reported lower sales. The rest were roughly on par with 2014, according to Tire Business research.
Likewise, a dozen of the Top 50 truck tire retreaders reported lower production in 2015 vs. 2014, as opposed to 14 that reported increased output.
This mixed bag of performances played out against U.S. and Canadian replacement medium truck/bus tire markets that grew by 3.4 and 11.8 percent, respectively, to 18 million and 1.9 million units, according to data from the Rubber Manufacturers Association and the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada.
U.S. imports of truck tires grew 9.3 percent in 2015 to 14.4 million units, including 8.9 million from China.
The industry now awaits the U.S. government's antidumping and countervailing duties investigations into Chinese truck tires, prompted by a petition in January by the United Steelworkers (USW). The Commerce Department said in February it found dumping margins ranging from 19.9 percent to 22.6 percent on Chinese truck and bus tires.
Commerce Department data show the average declared value of a Chinese medium truck tire last year was $120.22, compared with the average for all imports of $161.38.
The agency's final determination on countervailing duties is expected June 27 and on antidumping duties on July 7.
Worth noting: The Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau has voiced its support for the USW's petition, citing the detrimental impact that low-cost imports are having on the U.S. tire industry, (See separate story on page 3) a sentiment echoed by many of the retreaders responding to Tire Business' survey for this issue.
Southern Tire Mart (STM) retained the crown as North America's largest independent commercial tire dealership, generating $805 million in revenue from its truck and OTR tire sales and retreading activities (See rankings table, pages 12-13).
Columbia, Miss.-based STM operates 75 servicing outlets and 18 Bandag-system retread plants in nine Sunbelt states.
STM's sales are more than twice those of No. 2 Kal Tire and No. 3 Best-One Tire & Service L.L.C.
Other than Continental the Americas L.L.C.'s acquisition last year of Hill Tire Co., there were no major mergers or acquisitions to report, resulting in only three new companies being ranked among the top 50 commercial independents in North AmericaAction Tire Co. of Forest Park, Ga.; BR Retreading Inc. of Glasgow, Ky.; and Stratham Tire Inc. of Brentwood, N.H.
From a brand perspective, 39 dealerships carried Michelin, followed by 35 with Continental; 30 with General; 29 each with Yokohama, Bridgestone and Firestone; and 21 with Goodyear.
Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems L.L.C. retained its position as the largest retreader of commercial truck tires, edging out STM and Bridgestone Americas' GCR Tires & Service unit. (See rankings, pages 17-18).
Twenty-three of the 50 largest truck tire retreaders last year used Bridgestone's Bandag system, followed by 13 that use the Michelin Retread Technologies and/or Oliver Rubber system, six that use the Marangoni RTS system and five using the Goodyear system.
New to the retread rankings this year were Ironhead Rubber Technologies of Woodbridge, Ontario; and Quality Tire Co. of Salt Lake City. Ironhead, which is affiliated with Canada's Dynamic Tire Corp., also licenses its retread technology, including tread rubber, to three other Canadian and eight U.S. retreaders.
Other moves in the past year that affected the commercial industry include:
Continental Tire established BestDrive L.L.C., a commercial tire distribution/retread network designed to help foster the acceptance of and expand distribution of its ContiTread retread product line.
Launched in March 2015, Conti jump-started the unit in July by buying Hill Tire Co. of Forest Park, Ga. a Conti LifeCycle retread licenseeand melded Hill Tire's five outlets in Alabama and Georgia with ones it had opened on its own in Taylor, Mich.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Phoenix.
Since then, BestDrive has added 10 more outlets and opened retread plants in Jacksonville, Ill., and Salt Lake City. The unit reported sales of $52 million last year and claims retreading capacity of 800 units a day at eight plants.
John Vastine, region manager-Midwest for Continental Tire-CVT, was named recently as managing director of BestDrive, succeeding Clif Armstrong, who left Conti to head up Pirelli Tyre S.p.A.'s initiative to launch truck tires in North America. (See story on page 1.)
Goodyear expanded its company-owned Commercial Tire & Service Centers business, opening 11 CTS centers to push the network to 199 locations in 33 states.
Three of the new locations are adjacent to Pilot Flying J truck stops, raising the number of Goodyear CTS centers operating alongside or in close proximity to Pilot Flying J locations to more than 50.
The new locations range in size from 4,460 to 24,000 square feet and have from two to four service bays, Goodyear said. The Akron-based tire maker offers its Good-year-Fleet HQ 24/7 emergency roadside service from each location, along with new Goodyear-, Dunlop- and Kelly-brand medium truck tires; Goodyear retreads; truck tire balancing services; etc.
At least half of the new locations were existing commercial properties that Goodyear took over and renovated. The company did not elaborate on its investment in the centers nor whether the centers are owned or leased.
The new CTS centers are in Montgomery, Ala.; Eloy, Ariz.; Portage, Ind.; University Park and South Beloit, Ill.; Walcott, Iowa; Stoughton, Mass.; Dearborn, Mich.; Garland, Texas; Chesapeake, Va., and Seattle.
Our new centers will make it even easier for fleets to access elements of the Goodyear Total Solution, which has been designed to help reduce their operating costs, said Paul Wanstreet, president of Goodyear Commercial Tire & Service Centers.
Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations is building a Speedco commercial service location near Spokane, its first Speedco outlet in Washington and second in the Pacific Northwest.
The Nashville, Tenn.-based tire maker said opening this outlet is the start of a new chapter of growth for the company, but declined to elaborate at this time on details of its expansion strategy. Speedco locations offer lube and filter and tire services in a quick lane-style approach.
The new storethe first new Speedco location since 2010will be the 52nd Speedco outlet nationwide.
In addition, Love's Travel Stops
& Country Storeswhich carries Aeolus, BFGoodrich, Bridgestone, Continental, Firestone, Goodyear, Michelin and Yokohama new tires and Michelin Retread Technologies-sourced retreadsexpanded its network of truck stops with Truck Tire Care centers on site to more than 230 in 40 states.
The chain also added its Tire-Pass comprehensive drive-through tire-monitoring service at more than 200 locations.
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