SI RACHA, Thailand (Feb. 21, 2017) — Chinese tire maker Zhongce Rubber Co. Ltd. opened its first "Autospace" retail store in Thailand in January, a first step in the Chinese tire maker's strategy to expand its retail presence outside of China.
The store, in Si Racha, Chonburi province, is ZC Rubber's first Autospace location outside of China, where there are 300-plus franchised Autospace stores in operation. The tire maker did not disclose the store's size or employment and did not specify its investment in the business.
The new store is being supplied by ZC Rubber's factory in Rayong, Thailand, which went on stream in mid-2015 with an annual capacity of 5 million passenger car radials, 1.4 million truck and bus radials and 300,000 bias-ply truck and bus tires.
In 2016 the factory generated $10 million in sales locally, up from just over $1 million in 2015.
"We had a lower growth rate in China's domestic market, which is becoming saturated," factory officials said, "and Thailand's aftermarket also has larger demand."
Compared to the China market, Thailand's aftermarket services are dominated by overseas brands at higher prices, but it hasn't affected the consumers' inclination to spend more on maintenance, ZC Rubber said.
The company's plans for the Autospace brand are being rolled out parallel to a similar strategy being employed ZC Rubber's Westlake brand, which has opened Westlake-branded retail stores in Brunei and Mexico.
The store in Seri Begawan, Brunei, opened in July 2016.
The store spans more than 2,000 square feet and represents an investment of over $200,000, the company said, but Soon Hai trading company, ZC Rubber's primary distributor in Brunei.
ZC Rubber also operates two Westlake retail stores in Mexico.
Jane Ho, a correspondent with European Rubber Journal, a London-based sister publication of Tire Business, contributed to this article.