AKRON — If you're an independent tire dealer looking to boost your business, perhaps it's time to ask yourself a few questions:
Have your tire sales been flat, or worse yet, faltered over the past year?
Have you considered adding more product to your inventory?
Is the economy going strong in your area, as it is across many parts of the U.S.?
Do you see ongoing construction in your community?
If you've answered yes to those questions, maybe it's time to think big. Literally.
The time might be ripe to get into the OTR and/or specialty tire market, if you're not already there.
By all accounts, the OTR market is booming. After some rough years, the agriculture, mining and construction industries not only have recovered from the Great Recession, but they seem to be growing steadily.
A chart on page 10 of our Sept. 24 print issue illustrates the point.
In 2017, imports of OTR tires, including ag implement tires, treaded construction tires of all sizes, solid tires and off-highway truck tires below 16-inch rim diameters increased over 2016, often dramatically.
Only imports of ag drive tires and off-highway truck tires with 16-inch rim diameters and greater showed declines versus 2016.
The ag market, in particular, seems to be hitting its stride. In late August, another big crowd — organizers expect the final tally to approach 160,000 — attended the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa. Eleven tire manufacturers were represented at the three-day outdoor event, showcasing their burgeoning portfolios.
And it's just not pneumatic specialty tires that are growing.
According to Ryan Lopes, national product manager, material handling and solid tires for Alliance Tire Americas Inc. (ATA), the demand for solid tires continues to grow "steadily because of their long life and durability, not to mention their increased load-carrying capacity."
If areas where industrial tire use is heavy, where applications are harsh and the potential of punctures are high, solid tires have gained some traction, so to speak, according to a spokesperson from Continental Tire the Americas.
"With the explosive growth of warehouse and logistics industries, the growth in the need for solid industrial tires is self-evident," Mr. Lopes of ATA said. "The stability, long life, high load-carrying capacity and puncture-proof nature of solid tires make them the perfect solution to support these businesses where cutting costs is critical."
Is your shop too small to consider OTR tires? Consider all of the industrial, lawn and garden, construction, agricultural and trailer equipment in your area. Someone has to service their tire needs. Perhaps there's an opportunity to stake a claim to a piece of this market.
Group Michelin certainly sees vast opportunity in the market. Two months ago, the French tire maker announced a deal to buy OTR heavyweight Camso Group, the former Camoplast Solideal, for $1.45 billion.
Combining Magog, Quebec-based Camso with Michelin's substantial stake in the OTR market will give Michelin 26 plants that produce OTR products, with sales exceeding $2 billion. The deal is expected to close by November.
The world's No. 2 tire manufacturer decided to strengthen its OTR portfolio. That could be a sign that perhaps you should consider it, too.