“(North American) consumers are actually looking for durable products that are safe products with long wear and comfortable ride. They are looking for value and they are very value-conscious.
“What we are trying to do is put a product out there that is a good value for the consumer in terms of the balance and performance.”
The North American R&D center handles product development and application of advanced design technologies, testing support for North American programs, and technical and logistical support for the marketing activities of Giti Tire USA and Giti Tire Canada, the company said.
“We are actually a marketing-driven organization for market demand.
“The intelligence is gathered by a marketing team and then, collaboratively with R&D and marketing, we sit down together and define the targets for our program. Once the targets are set, we embark on the development,” he said.
“There is very close cooperation between marketing and R&D, so that at the end of the cycle we have exactly the product that the market demands,” he said, noting that the development cycle can range from as short as six months to as long as two years, depending on the complexity of the project.
The center uses computer-aided design technologies and has tire testing capabilities for OE homologation and replacement consumer and commercial tire development.
Soon more testing equipment will be added at the center and the staff will be increased, Mr. Aboutorabi said, declining to give an employment figure, but noting that the center will be “growing very rapidly, probably more than doubling in size.”
“We'll be expanding our indoor test capabilities here in North America because if the prototypes are being built here, then we have to test them here in North America.
“It doesn't make sense to build them here and send them to China for some indoor testing and then wait for the results. So we will be expanding our indoor testing capabilities.”
The R&D center also may become more involved in OE tire development after the U.S. plant opens.
Giti started building its $560 million car and light truck tire plant in Richburg, S.C., last year. The factory is expected to create 1,700 jobs over the next 10 years, according to Giti.
The 1.8-million-sq.-ft. plant and distribution center initially will have an annual capacity of 5 million tires for both replacement and OE customers.
The factory will be engineered to allow for additional capacity to fill future market demand, the company said.
“Once we have the plant here up and running, the OEMs will be more interested in working with us, too, because it's a shorter supply chain for them.
“There are a lot of advantages for the OEMs to work with us here in North America, so we are building those relationships with the OEMs and I think they will be interested in working with us more and more.…
“We have designed the new plant with the needs of the OEM in mind.” Mr. Aboutorabi continued.
The R&D center's location near Akron — a tire industry hub for R&D centers, equipment manufacturers and materials suppliers — has provided advantages for Giti, he said.
“We have access to all the expertise in the tire industry here, from materials to engineering, from manufacturing to equipment and testing. Everything is here.
“It has been really beneficial to us. We couldn't have ramped up as quickly as we did if we were not located in Akron,” he said.
Mr. Aboutorabi noted that Giti Tire is a charter member of the Blacksburg, Va.-based Center for Tire Research (CenTiRe), an industry-university consortium involving the University of Akron, Virginia Tech and an assortment of tire manufacturers, materials suppliers and modeling and testing companies.The goal is for the colleges to research and develop new technologies to help the tire industry and advance tire development.
He called the pre-competitive research organization a long-term benefit for the company. The program also helps train students who will be seeking careers in the industry and who eventually will contribute to the advancement of tire design.
Giti hired Mr. Aboutorabi, a 26-year veteran of the tire industry, in 2013.
He spent 17 years as manager of research and engineering services with Kumho America Technical Center in Akron and was a senior research engineer for six years with Akron-based Good¬year.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6127; Twitter: @kmccarr