Mexico's 2,400 or so tire dealers sold 39.4 million new tires in 2016, according to Elizabeth Ventura Rendón, president of their national association, Asociación Nacional de Distribuidores de Llantas y Plantas Renovadoras AC (ANDELLAC).
However, the legal and, in some cases, illegal importation of up to 2 million used and low quality tires annually from China, South Korea and the U.S. has blurred the domestic replacement tire picture.
"There's no protection (for the national industry)," Ms. Ventura said in a 2016 Tire Business interview, adding that the association was lobbying the federal government to try to get the imports stopped. However, it was still an issue in June this year, an ANDELLAC spokesman told Tire Business. "Used tires are dangerous," he said.
"The authorized annual quota of imported used tires that are sold along Mexico's frontiers has been 840,000 units in recent years," a spokesman for national rubber industry chamber CNIH said.
"However, in recent years between 1.1 million and 1.2 million have been imported." Others say the imports are on a considerably larger scale.
According to Ms. Ventura, cheap imports comprise 60 percent of the national market for commercial vehicle tires — from 20-inch diameter rims and upward.
Following the lead of her predecessor, Raúl Castillo Arteaga, she wants to turn Mexico into a market based on technology, rather than on price.
In the official ANDELLAC magazine, Mr. Castillo once wrote: "I disagree with those who affirm that…customers make decisions based on price. They do that when we, whose job it is to act as consultants, fail to offer them any other means of comparison."
Tires are not commodities, he added, but manufactured goods that require a high degree of engineering sophistication.
Statistics, new plants
Bridgestone Americas, Michelin North America, Continental Tire the Americas, Goodyear and Pirelli & C. S.p.A. are among the leaders in a market that boasts about 100 different brands. Some reports say the quintet satisfies 40 percent of the demand for new passenger car and light truck tires in Mexico.
The country's state-run statistics office, Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI), said the country produced 21.6 million tires for passenger cars and pickups in 2015, up from 20 million in 2014. That figure increased by several million in 2016, according to Ms. Ventura.
The country has nine tire factories. Bridgestone has two, Continental, Cooper, Pirelli and Michelin have one each, and JK Tornel has three. Mr. Castillo described them as "first-world, more modern than in most other countries."