AKRON — Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. is at the heart of this year's top brand-related news, both for its own brand — being used again for truck and bus tires after an 11-year hiatus — and for its decision to reduce its private-brand business to free up capacity for its own brand.
Cooper relaunched the Cooper-branded truck/bus tire product line for U.S. dealers this spring after bringing its Qingdao Ge Rui Da Rubber Co. Ltd. venture in Qingdao, China, up to its quality spec.
The Cooper truck/bus brand is developed for fleets, OE accounts and commercial servicing dealers, while its Roadmaster brand serves the replacement channel and owner-operators primarily through wholesale as well as standard fitment to trailer OEMs.
At the same time, Cooper nearly has completed its exit from some "non-strategic" private-brand business, a move that's had a "significant impact" on its volume performance, CEO Brad Hughes said while presenting the firm's first-quarter financial results.
The move has freed up nearly 5 million units of annual production since 2012, he said, which Cooper is redirecting toward higher-margin company-branded business.
Among those affected by Cooper's decision is Omni United USA Inc., which has been forced to suspend distribution of its Timberland brand that was launched in 2014 amid fanfare touting the name — licensed from outdoor shoe company Timberland L.L.C. — its U.S.-sourcing and commitment to recycling.
Overall, Tire Business tracked nearly 380 brand names available in North America, up slightly from a year ago. Of these, 169 are considered private brands, 146 are import brands and the rest flag and associate brands.
Tire Business defines a private brand as one owned or controlled by a distribution company and manufactured under contract by a third party.
An import brand is one owned or controlled by a non-U.S.-based tire manufacturer with no manufacturing base/capacity in North America.
Flag and associate brands are those controlled by companies with manufacturing in the U.S. or Canada.
Recent changes affecting tire brands in North America include:
• Importer/distributor Taray International Corp. has added the Waterfall passenger tire brand — produced in Turkey by Kolsan Kocaeli Lastik Sanayi A.S. — to its portfolio of products. Kolsan Lastik is a manufacturing company, founded in 2000, located in Turkey's Izmit–Kocaeli Industrial zone.
This is Taray's second Turkish product. In mid-2016 it agreed to become the distributor for Özka Lastik ve Kauçuk's Özka-brand farm tires and tread rubber throughout the Americas.
• The Independent Tire Dealers Group has struck a deal with Zafco International to secure the supply of Zafco's Zeetex consumer tire brand for its member companies. • Zafco International/Armstrong Tire L.L.C. added passenger and light truck tires to the Armstrong brand it resurrected in 2015 with a range of radial truck and bus tires. The launch covers a pair of "Blu-Trac" passenger and three "Tru-Trac" light truck tires, with more in the pipeline, Zafco disclosed at the 2017 SEMA Show.
Zafco's Dubai, United Arab Emirates-based parent company acquired the global rights to the Armstrong brand in 2012 from Pirelli Tyre S.p.A., which had owned it since buying Armstrong Rubber Co. in 1988.
• Industrial tire importer/distributor Sentry Tire & Rubber L.L.C. took over the Duramax pneumatic and solid industrial tire brand from Duramax Inc.
• China's Sailun Jinyu Tyre Co. Ltd. took over Mississauga, Ontario-based Dynamic Tire Inc. and Husky Tire Inc. and renamed Husky to Sailun Jinyu International and moved it to Brampton, Ontario.
The distributor handles the Blacklion, RoadX and Ironhead brands, sourced from Sailun Jinyu factories in China and Vietnam.
Dynamic Tire continues to distribute in Canada the Diamondback and Wind Power brands that Husky Tire previously handled.
• TBC Corp. has acquired global marketing rights to the Interstate tire brand from Interstate Tire & Rubber, which was declared "insolvent" in late 2017 by a Dutch court.
• TP Commercial Solutions L.L.C., the company set up in 2016 to handle the launch of Pirelli-branded truck/bus tires in North America, changed its name to Prometeon Group Commercial Solutions L.L.C. and established headquarters in San Diego.
The company also struck a deal with Dynamic Tire to distribute Pirelli- and Formula-brand truck tires in Canada.
• Laugfs Corp. (Rubber) Ltd., a Sri Lankan producer of solid industrial tires for materials-handling and skid-steer equipment, has established a U.S. subsidiary — Laugfs USA L.L.C. — in Lombard, Ill., to handle distribution in North America. The company has a warehouse in Lombard.
• Vogue Tyre & Rubber Co. supplier Sailun Jinyu Tyre has shifted production of the Vogue brand to its plant in Tay Ninh Province, Vietnam, thus removing the brand from the elevated import duties imposed on Chinese-sourced consumer tires.
The latter item reflects the growing importance of Vietnam as a source of tires sold in the U.S. According to U.S. Department of Commerce figures, Vietnam is now among the top 10 countries exporting tires to the U.S. In 2017 this amounted to 6.46 million passenger, 2.61 million light truck and 293,469 medium/heavy truck tires.