April 15, 2012
War of words: Bridgestone and Michelin add spice to OTR tire production
By: Bob Ulrich
Did you notice the beginning of a little trash talking going on between Bridgestone Corp. and Groupe Michelin recently? It all centers around their OTR tire production.
Both companies are expanding their OTR tire manufacturing capabilities. And expanding is an understatement.
Last September, Bridgestone announced it was going to construct a 1.5 million-square-foot OTR radial tire manufacturing facility on a greenfield site in Aiken County, S.C. Then at the 2012 Tire Industry Association (TIA) Off-The-Road Tire Conference in February, plans to increase large and ultra-large radial OTR tire production capacity at its three-year-old Kitakyushu, Japan, plant came to light.
In March, the company said it plans to build an OTR tire plant in Thailand. That's two new plants and one major expansion, all announced within six months.
"The Nikkei," a Japanese newspaper, interviewed Bridgestone CEO Shoshi Arakawa about the company's efforts to take advantage of the growing and extremely profitable. "ultra-large tire" market.
"These efforts are behind Arakawa’s ambition to crush its French rival, not merely coexist with it," the article reported.
Not to be outdone, Michelin last week announced it was not only building a new OTR tire plant in Anderson, S.C., but also expanding production at its OTR tire facility in Lexington, S.C. (See "New Michelin plant: production in 2013" for more information.)
Michelin North America Inc. called the $750 million double announcement its "biggest manufacturing news in more than 15 years."
Michelin executives were very subtle in their remarks during the press conference. "Michelin intends to maintain and strengthen its leadership in all its specialty businesses, especially earthmover radial tires,” said Jean-Dominique Senard, Groupe Michelin's managing general partner.
“Michelin is one of very few companies in the world that is able to produce these high technology tires,” added Michelin North America Chairman and President Pete Selleck.
Guess which company Senard and Selleck were referring to in their statements.
Large OTR tire demand has outstripped supply worldwide for a while, and industry experts see that trend continuing. As for the entertaining "he said, he said" comments, I hope they, too, will continue.
Sign up for our Enews and receive the latest news, trends, and product information right in your e-mail inbox.