As expected, Apollo Tyres Ltd.'s Onkar S Kanwar was there. So was his son, Neeraj. But the opening of the company's new $500 million consumer and commercial tire plant in Budapest, Hungary, on April 7 also drew politicians of the highest order, including Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Peter Szijjarto, Hungarian foreign affairs and trade minister, and HE Rahul Chhabra, ambassador of India to Hungary, also were on hand. So were Apollo's board of directors and senior management team.
"With this inauguration today of our Hungary greenfield facility, we have crossed another milestone in our global growth journey," said Onkar S Kanwar, Apollo's chairman. "This facility will help us further increase our presence and market share in Europe.
"From being a replacement market-focused company in Europe, we would soon be starting supplies of our tires to all the leading OE's in Europe."
The highly automated plant features IT-driven systems and robotics. The final capacity of the plant at the end of Phase I will be 5.5 million passenger and light truck tires, and 675,000 truck tires. The facility will complement Apollo's existing plant in The Netherlands, and will produce both Apollo and Vredestein tires.
It took 721 days and 7,000 workers to construct the plant, which is located on 178 acres. The facility itself takes up 37 acres, with a "green area" accounting for 42 acres.
Apollo also has four tire plants in India with a combined capacity of 1,450 tons a day. The Netherlands facility produces another 195 tons a day.
Plant No. 7 is up next; in 2016, the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding to set up a state-of-the-art tire manufacturing facility in the southeastern coast of India.
The inauguration also marks 40 years for the company manufacturing and selling tires. Apollo originally produced bias truck tires, and slowly ventured into consumer tire production, then radial truck and bus tire manufacturing.
In 2009, Apollo began selling its Indian-made products in Europe. With the Hungary plant up and running, Apollo plans to turn its attention to the U.S.
Neeraj Kanwar, vice chairman and managing director, said Apollo wants 10% of its total worldwide sales to come from the U.S. and Canada in five years.
Three other global tire manufacturers have tire plants in Hungary: Hankook Tire Co. Ltd., Bridgestone Corp. and Groupe Michelin.