ASPEN/SNOWMASS, Colo. — 2021-22 is shaping up to be a critical period in the evolution of Sumitomo Rubber North America Inc. (SRNA) evolution into a more well-rounded, more completive player in the North American tire industry.
The company, which goes to market primarily with the Falken brand, gained market share last year thanks to some timely decisions and a growing dealer base and is looking to keep the momentum rolling with a trio product launches in critical segments despite dealing with unprecedented supply fulfillment issues.
That was the message SRNA executives delivered to representatives of 30 of its larger customers during the company's dealer meeting Sept. 12-16 in Aspen/Snowmass.
"The word of the day is — Supply," Rick Brennan, vice president, marketing, told those attending the company's annual gathering of its leading distributors and dealers.
"Everybody's short," he said, noting that according to U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association data, the U.S. industry's passenger tire stock on hand is roughly 5 million units short of what's traditional at this time of the year. For light truck tires, the shortage is 1.2 million to 2.8 million units, while truck/bus is 1 million units short.
The shortages are especially critical in light truck and the larger passenger sizes for the SUV/CUV categories.
"When will it improve?" Mr. Brennan asked the gathering. "Your guess is as good as mine," he responded, noting that the best scenario is for mid-2022 for passenger and light truck tires and year-end 2022 for truck/bus tires.
While acknowledging the industry is extremely tight on supply, Mr. Brennan said SRNA believes it's ahead of most of its competitors, achieving fill rates of 75% to 85%.
In touting SRNA's fill rates, Mr. Brennan lauded the company's logistics staff for working 24/7 to get tires that have been sitting in containers on ships in the Long Beach port off-loaded — SRNA imports from plants in Brazil, Japan, Indonesia and Thailand — and into the distribution stream, as well as the plant engineers at the firm's Tonawanda, N.Y., factory for their efforts to accelerate the company's $122 million capacity expansion project under way there.
In particular, the expansion of capacity for truck/bus tires is ahead of schedule, Mr. Brennan noted.
SRNA's ambitious product plans come in the wake of measurable market-share gains last year in all three key product areas, largely the result of gambling on building inventory in the early days of the pandemic, according to Richard Smallwood, CEO of the Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. (SRI) subsidiary.