KOBE, Japan — Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. (SRI) plans to invest $122 million over three years to increase capacity for car, light truck and medium truck tires at its factory in Tonawanda, N.Y., in response to increased demand.
The Kobe-based company also is investing $102 million at factories in Thailand and Japan to update equipment there for increased production of tires for SUVs and light trucks, predominantly to support sales growth for these products in North America.
SRI, which goes to market in North America with the Falken and Ohtsu brands, is budgeting $96 million to nearly double capacity for car and light truck tires to 12,000 units a day from 6,500 by year-end 2023, as well as $26 million through year-end 2024 to raise truck tire capacity 31.4% to 2,300 tires a day.
SRI said the expansions are driven by strong demand in North America of its high-performance tires for SUVs and light trucks, as well as for medium truck tires. In particular, SRI said sales of its Falken-brand high-performance tires continued to expand steadily this past year despite the market impact of COVID-19.
SRI said the investments also would improve overall productivity at the U.S. factory over the coming years. The company did not comment on the potential effect on employment at the factory it has operated since 2015. Employment stands at 1,340, represented by the United Steelworkers union.
The plant in Tonawanda was originally opened by Dunlop Ltd. in 1923 and controlled by Goodyear from 1999 through 2015 under terms of the Goodyear-SRI global alliance.
The U.S. investment, it added, "also reflects our great confidence in the factory, which has made enormous progress in improving productivity over the past few years. By augmenting our local production base for the North American market, we aim to reduce sales lead times so that we may further expand sales in this key market."
In Asia, SRI is expanding capacity for tires for light truck and SUV applications at plants in Amati, Thailand, and Miyazaki, Japan.
SRI aims to produce 4,150 of these tires per day by year-end 2023 at the Thai plant in Amati City and 1,600 units/day at the Miyazaki plant by year-end 2024.
"With this shift, these two factories will support our push to increase sales of SUV and light truck tires in North America," SRI said.