LONDONGiven the well-documented impact of U.S. tariffs on China's tire exports and a domestic market slowdown, figures from the China Rubber Industry Association (CRIA) show a surprisingly modest decline in sales by Chinese tire manufacturers in 2015.
At first glance, total sales for CRIA member companies listed fell just 7 percent last year vs. 2014 to $21.5 billion for the 32 companies listed.
Comparing figures for companies that appear in both the 2014 and 2015 surveys, the decline is a bit more marked, coming in 13 percent lower in 2015, according to sales data provided by the Chinese association.
The figures included a robust showing by China's largest leading tire maker, Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. Ltd. (ZC Rubber) which reported an increase of 1 percent to $3.4 billion.
The performance by China's largest tire maker and 10th largest worldwide, partly reflects its broad portfolio and progress in developing its brands.
ZC Rubber manufactures tires for cars, trucks, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, tractors, ATVs and other vehicles, with brands including Chao- -yang, Goodride and Westlake.
Hangzhou-based ZC Rubber also has made progress in supplying products in compliance with European standards, including the EU tire labelling scheme and REACH chemical safety regulations.
The CRIA data show a sprinkling of gains elsewhere by other member companies, particularly among some of the smaller players.
Indeed, the stand-out performance was by Weifang Yuelong Rubber group, which reported sales of $643.3 million in 2015a 22-percent increase on its prior-year total.
According to the website of Yuelong's subsidiary Kaixuan, last year the Group's three subsidiaries all had capacity utilization rates of above 90 percent. Yuelong was one of China's top tire exporters with across-the-board growth for overseas sales.
But there were clearly more losers than winners in 2015, with double-digit decreases in sales recorded by most tire manufacturers listed in the CRIA figures.
The biggest drop was recorded at Shandong Wanda Tyre Co. Ltd., where sales plunged 61 percent. The company didn't provide the factors behind this sharp decline in sales.
Other major names fared only slightly better, with Shandong Linglong Rubber Co. Ltd., Aeolus Tyre Co. Ltd., Prinx Chengshan (Shandong) Tire Co. Ltd. and Shandong Sangong Tyre Co. Ltd. all recording declines of 20 percent and more.
Aeolus, for example, explained that its domestic revenue took an even sharper decline of 26 percent last year, compared with an 18.6-percent decrease for overseas revenue.
Company names from the 2014 list that are missing from the 2015 list are: Sichuan Haida Tyre Group Co. Ltd., which had 2014 sales of $414.5 million; Beijing Shouchang Tyre Co. Ltd., $123 million; and Good Friend Tyre Co. Ltd., $119.2 million.
Meanwhile, Linglong's prospectus cites factors such as global economy and commodity prices and a fire at its Thailand plant that caused damage to produced tire as reasons for the revenue drop in 2015 compared with the previous year.
For other Chinese tire manufacturers, the sudden market downturn and loss of business proved to be too much.
According to a CRIA official, tire makers that have closed in the past year include the operations of Capital Tire, Deruibo and Giti Chong-qing, as well as Chuanghua Tire in Rizhao, Shandong and FullTour in Linyi, Shandong.
Two other tire manufacturers in China's Shandong province, HengYu and Huaqiao (aka Wosen Tires), were about to be closed down but have since been acquired respectively by Doublestar and Hengfeng.
This report appeared in European Rubber Journal, a United Kingdom-based sister publication of Tire Business.