ATLANTA — To paraphrase astronaut Neil Armstrong: Apollo has landed. With a commercial truck tire portfolio. In North America. To compete against the Tier 1s in the market.
Indian tire maker Apollo Tyres Ltd. — which last year (re)launched the Vredestein brand of passenger tires in North America — is rolling out a range of Apollo-branded truck/bus tires in the U.S. and Canada after several years of testing its products throughout the continent.
This launch involves not only a product line new to the North American commercial truck industry, but also a brand name that is as unfamiliar in the U.S. as it is a brand leader in the company's home market of India, where it claims a 32% market share.
This latest product introduction complements the company's ambitious Vredestein rollout in North American markets last summer.
"My vision has been always to become a truly multinational global Indian company," Onkar Kanwar, chairman and founder of Apollo and architect of the company's value-driven strategy, told Tire Business in an exclusive interview from his home in New Dehli, not far from company headquarters in Gurgaon, India.
"America is one of largest and most mature markets," Mr. Kanwar said. "We would like to be the greatest player in our first year with the Michelins and Contis of the world. We have been doing that in Europe very well, and we see no reason why we can't do it (in North America)."
The truck tire rollout, planned in three phases, includes the full range of commercial tire applications with sizes covering 17.5- to 24.5-inch rim diameters. The first phase, which began early last year, includes regional, super-regional and mixed-use products rolling out at intervals through 2022.
The company plans to have 13 SKUs available in those product lines this year and expand that to 23 by June 2022.
Coach/urban and mixed-use products will start to arrive in the U.S. by the first quarter of 2022 as part of Phase III. By the third quarter of 2024, Apollo plans to have released 45 SKUs, covering 90% of the market.
The tires will be produced at Apollo's 4-year-old plant in Gyöngyöshalász, Hungary, as well as at its plant in Chennai, India.
So why would Apollo, the world's No. 15 ranked tire maker, with sales of $2.27 billion in 2019, want to position itself in a highly competitive market against other Tier 1s with much greater name recognition?
"Why not?" Neeraj Kanwar, Apollo's vice chairman and managing director, and son of Onkar, asked rhetorically.
"If truck is one of the largest markets in your country, and if Apollo knows how to make a truck tire and does a very good job of it, why not get our offering to the customer and into the market?
"That's really the rationale of why we are getting into the truck tire market."