PASADENA, Calif. — May the Forceland be with you.
At least that's what Kyle Dou, general manager of Hixih Rubber Industry Group Co. Ltd., and his sales team are hoping.
Early last year, Hixih became the exclusive North American distributor for the Forceland brand of passenger and light-truck tires. The private brand, controlled by Singapore-based Forceland Tyre Pte. Ltd., is manufactured at Zhongce Rubber Group Co. Ltd.'s plant in Thailand.
Forceland offers a portfolio with 135 sizes of passenger and light truck tires — with plans to add 14 more sizes by year end — including a new "hybrid" rugged terrain tire, the Rebel Claw.
Mr. Dou said several factors attracted Hixih, which markets truck/bus tires under the Hixih brand name, to its partnership with Forceland, especially its strong passenger/light truck offerings that complement Hixih's commercial products.
"With all the brands we carefully analyzed, Forceland really has that mindset to become a very nice Tier 3 tire eventually," Mr. Dou said.
"These guys were investing in marketing, not just selling any tires to any wholesalers. What we do in the U.S. is strategize for them, work with them on how to sell it appropriately throughout the market and not undersell it in the market."
Mr. Dou said Hixih embarked on a comprehensive process of "redrawing" Forceland's sales plan.
"We got rid of all existing customers we felt were of a different mindset than the brand's model," he said. "We based our new customers with customers we had prior relationships with."
He said Hixih is looking for distributors that will sell the tire as a "house brand."
"That's the key," he said. "Those are more of the customers we are aiming for."
Forceland, he said, has its own team of engineers who are looking to design an aggressive product — especially for light trucks — that offers great performance at a Tier 4 price point. Industry veterans Bill Kirkpatrick (East Coast) and Robert Linderoth (West Coast) are the brand's regional sales managers.
Hixih, founded in 1989 as a producer of conveyor belts and other industrial rubber goods, added tires to its product mix in 2005. Hixih operates Shenzhou Tyre and Tongli Tire Co Ltd. as subsidiaries
Hixih has annual capacities of 2.6 million truck and bus tires, 8 million passenger tires and 3 million motorcycle tires. Most of such capacity is under the group's joint venture with Pirelli & C. S.p.A. called RoadOne Tyre.
The antidumping duties recently levied on tires produced in Thailand — as well as those made in South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan — won't deter sales, according to Mr. Dou. He cites the fact that duties levied on those tires (13.25%) are smaller than duties on products placed on those made in the other three Asian regions.
"That's a positive," Mr. Dou said.
Last year, Thailand maintained its status as the No. 1 source of tires imported to the U.S. in 2020, accounting for nearly 21% of tire imports last year by value, importing $2.8 billion in product, according to Tire Business' analysis of U.S. Commerce Department data.
Getting product to the U.S. remains difficult, Mr. Dou said, as an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, after achieving a 93% fill rate pre-pandemic.
"We've been feeling it, especially in the first quarter of 2021 and last quarter of 2020," he said. "The main hurdle is shipping. There's a shortage of containers."
Mr. Dou said Forceland's goal is to sell 700,000 tires in the U.S. in 2021 and grow that to 900,000 or 1 million in 2021.
Once achieved, he said, Forceland will look to expand distribution to Canada and Mexico. There are plans to introduce winter tires to the market as well.
He said for the present, the company is focusing on brand recognition.
"A lot of brands here just try to sell the tire out and try to make a quick buck but forgetting to reinvest that money into a brand name and instead rely on the wholesalers and distribution network to bring the brand up," Mr. Dou said. "We like Forceland's mentality.
"We are parents of this brand, and we will be supporting the brand with funds in marketing. That's really key. You have so many companies that just forgot about that."
Forceland's commitment, he said, goes beyond branding. That shows, he believes, in the brand's plans.
"They're not comfortable," he said. "They want to expand and grow. That really is what I see in the potential of Forceland. Their engineering team, their design team are up to date, and they are all veterans in the industry who know what the consumers want, not just this year, not next year, but a couple years later."