It certainly didn't have the panache of 2017, when China's Triangle Group Co. Ltd. announced it was building a plant in the U.S. and Nokian Tyres P.L.C. broke ground on its first North American plant, but 2018 did have its moments for tire manufacturers revealing plans regarding new plants.
The biggest reveal came in Las Vegas on the evening of Oct. 29, when Balkrishna Industries Ltd. (BKT) Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Poddar — as part of his acceptance speech for being named to the Tire Industry Association Hall of Fame — announced his company was making plans to build its first North American plant.
The new factory, which will be a $100 million investment, will be the off-road tire manufacturer's first factory outside of India and fifth tire plant overall. BKT is India's fifth largest tire maker and No. 39 worldwide, based on fiscal 2017-18 sales of $692 million.
As part of the plan, BKT will establish a new subsidiary in the U.S., whose first task will be to select an appropriate site for the plant and acquire the land.
The company expects the plant to open in the first half of 2021 with a capacity of 20,000 metric tons per year. That's smaller than any of the company's four plants in India. By comparison, the company's newest factory, in Bhuj, Gujarat, India, is rated at 130,000 tons per year.
At the same time, BKT is investing more than $200 million to upgrade and expand capacity for tires and carbon black at its plants in India.
As for Triangle, workers were in the last stages of site preparation in late September as the company moved closer to breaking ground on its $580 million plant, located near Rocky Mount, N.C. The Chinese tire maker expects both phases of the passenger and light truck tire facility to be operational by 2023.
Meanwhile, in mid-year, it was learned that China's Guangzhou Vanlead Group Co. Ltd. had put on hold indefinitely plans it announced a year ago to invest $1 billion in a tire plant in South Carolina. Guangzhou Vanlead, a China state-owned entity that controls Wanli Tire Group, had proposed building a tire plant in Orangeburg County, S.C., capable of producing 6 million consumer tires annually in the eight-year project's first phase.
Sources at the Orangeburg County Development Commission (OCDC) confirmed the project is in "neutral," although the OCDC hasn't ruled out completely that it may still come to fruition. A Wanli source in China said the company is evaluating alternative locations in Southeast Asia and Middle/Eastern Europe.
In the meantime, Wanli — in partnership with Aufine Group Co. Ltd. — has established a business office in Ontario, Calif., to handle sales of Wanli-brand truck and bus tires in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
While work continued on Nokian's plant in Dayton, Tenn., the Finnish tire maker relocated its North American headquarters closer to the facility, opening an office in Nashville, Tenn. Nokian is still maintaining some operations in Colchester, Vt., where its headquarters was located previously.
Specialty tire manufacturer Global Rubber Industries Pvt. Ltd. officially opened its state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in Badalgama, Sri Lanka, the first facility in the country to produce pneumatic agricultural tires.