According to Yokohama Tire Corp. (YTC), the off-the-road (OTR) tire market continues to fluctuate regarding supply issues, as tire manufacturers could barely keep up with demand two years ago; last year the supply was much stronger than the demand.
Tim Easter, director of OTR sales for YTC, discusses what causes the OTR tire market to change so frequently and what the outlook is for 2014 and beyond.
Question: What are the contributing factors to the slowdown in the overall OTR tire market?
Easter: The U.S. and global OTR tire market were very strong in 2012, but took a downturn in 2013, partially due to challenges in the coal mining segment. Many factors came into play, including new government regulations, which increased the costs of mining. Power plants had to comply with the new regulations by putting in new scrubbers, which added to their cost to use coal.
Another factor in the sluggish OTR tire market is the construction industry, which has been struggling for years. The good news is we’ve seen a slight upturn in construction and we think it will continue to improve in 2014.
Also, from the infrastructure standpoint, there’s more work to repair and build roads, which will help the industry.
Question: What are some of the hot topics or trends that will affect the industry and Yokohama in 2014 and beyond?
Easter: One trend is the size of mining equipment now being used, especially in the Eastern U.S. mines. The equipment seems to be getting smaller instead of bigger, because of the way coal is being mined today. There’s a lot less mountaintop removal and more contour-type mining.
There are some definite trends that will affect our business and the products YTC is selling. For example, the market in Mexico is growing and we opened an office there in 2013. We look for that to be a big plus for us in 2014.
Question: What do you see as the best areas for Yokohama to grow in 2014?
Easter: We are a full line supplier who plays well in niche markets and specialty operations. I think we’ll continue that. We are also expanding our radial product lines and feel we can be more aggressive in that market, as well as expand our business. Mexico as a market will be a growth area for us, too as I mentioned. Plus, there are growing opportunities in the port service industry.
Question: Can you talk more about your radial tires?
Easter: Yokohama has built a reputation as the technology leader for the best bias products in the market. We want our customers to expect the same with our radial tires.
At the upcoming ConExpo next month, we are excited to be launching our latest technology in OTR radial tire tread and design in the RL45 and RL51. The RL45 E-4 is made for articulated dump trucks and scrapers and the L-4 version is for front-end loaders. The RL45 is available in size 26.5R25 and is a super tough radial for extremely demanding applications.
The RL51 L-5 application is designed for front-end loaders and graders, and is a resilient radial for high-cut uses. It offers incredible traction and stability and won’t sway under load, thanks to the advanced belt package. It comes in size 23.5R25.
We’ll also display our RT41 E-4 with a new CPUG (cut protective underground) tread compound for articulated dump trucks and scrapers. The CPUG compound is designed for underground usage and helps increase the life of the tire by offering protection from cuts, punctures and wear. It’s available in three sizes: 23.5R25, 26.5R25 and 29.5R25.
With these products and others slated for the future, we will have a strong line-up of radial tires for our customers.
Question: It sounds like products will be a strategic part of your success. What other factors will be critical to Yokohama?
Easter: Our dealer base is the key to our business and we’ve always been a very strong supporter of our dealers. We’re expanding our sales force and technical group so we can have more time with our customers and find out how we can help grow their businesses via strong programs and products. We’re in this for the long-haul.
Plus, our OTR team has many years of experience. Mike Baggett, our national sales manager, has 40-plus years in OTR. I’ve got 25 years and Sam Munsell, our OE national account manager, has more than 15 years’ experience -- everything from changing tires to the wheel side of things. And, of course, we still work with 46-year industry veteran Gary Nash, who’s now the president of Yokohama Tire Mexico, which is a subsidiary of YTC. We are definitely positioned well in the market.
For more information on Yokohama’s visit www.yokohamatire.com.