Laren Harmon, senior vice president of Carlstar Group L.L.C., said the specialty tire and wheel company's "post-COVID-19 markets" have expanded, which bodes well for OE and aftermarket sales for many years to come.
"We are excited about the opportunities ahead," he told Tire Business.
How would you describe the specialty tire business in North America in 2022?
Our business is strong again in 2022, which is a continuation of the trends we have experienced in the last five-plus years. We see positive growth in our aftermarket business, with a very strong order board. OE is also experiencing growth as our OEM customers work hard to rebuild inventories; both their own and that of their customers. The business is strong across all the segments in which we operate: agriculture and construction, styled wheels, outdoor power equipment, high-speed trailer and powersports.
What markets have been most impacted during the pandemic?
We experienced increases in demand across all of our channels as the economy rebounded from the initial COVID shocks of the first half of 2020. Contrary to some markets, the effects in specialty tire segments will be more permanent. Recreational activities, such as RVing, boating, powersports trail riding and do-it-yourself lawn, gained tremendous popularity, with many participants being first-time buyers.
With that will come many years of solid demand for replacement tire products. In OEM, the demand increases occurred concurrently with supply-chain disruptions across many types of "non-tire and wheel" parts. As such, we still see a great deal of "unfulfilled demand" with our OEM business along with very low inventories of finished goods. This should drive OEM sales through the end of 2023, barring any significant additional exogenous factors.
What is your sales ratio between OE and aftermarket?
We are approximately 60-40, aftermarket to OEM. Our strategy is to continue to grow the aftermarket at a faster pace than that of our OEM business. Our aftermarket customers appreciate our one-stop shop solutions as well as our near-sourced manufacturing and distribution capabilities.
What is your outlook for the remainder of the year?
We anticipate continued strong demand across all product segments of our business (ag, construction, powersports, high-speed and outdoor power equipment), both OE and aftermarket. In particular, we see strong sellout from our customers in high-speed trailer tires and in ag/construction products, both pneumatic and semi-pneumatic.
With rising prices, how has wheel demand been impacted?
Wheel demand continues to be strong. At Carlstar we have an advantage in that, in addition to tires, we manufacture most of the wheels we sell to both OEM and aftermarket customers. This is done in our Aiken, S.C., facility. Because of this, and the fact that the market has struggled to supply, we have seen strong demand throughout the disruptions.