The following is the latest in MTD's exclusive series of interviews with top truck tire executives about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on business, plus their outlook on demand, shipments and other key factors during the second half of the year. Stay tuned to www.moderntiredealer.com for more coverage!

"As states start to reopen and people get back to work and manufacturing starts again, freight will increase," says Yokohama's Funkhouser.  "As freight increases, replacement tire demand will follow." -

"As states start to reopen and people get back to work and manufacturing starts again, freight will increase," says Yokohama's Funkhouser.  "As freight increases, replacement tire demand will follow."

“There is still a cloud of uncertainty, but things appear to be headed in a positive direction.” That’s Dan Funkhouser’s assessment of the truck tire market at mid-year.

In this exclusive MTD interview, Funkhouser, vice president of commercial sales for Yokohama Tire Corp., talks demand, shipments, Yokohama’s OE business and other topics as the commercial truck tire segment adjusts to the reopening of the North American economy.

MTD: How did the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting government actions impact your commercial truck tire business in the United States and Canada?

Funkhouser: As states began to shut down in March and manufacturing plants were impacted, we worked extra-hard to ensure dealers, fleets and government facilities had product to keep their operations running. In April, there was a slowdown in purchasing as the impact of the regulations were felt throughout the economy. As states are starting to reopen, there has been an uptick in business.

MTD: A number of tire manufacturers, including Yokohama, temporarily suspended production at their U.S.-based truck tire plants. (Editor’s note: Yokohama’s truck tire plant in Mississippi resumed production on April 27.) It is expected that these shutdowns and/or production suspensions will have an impact on truck tire shipments for the rest of the year. Can you quantify expected shipment declines?

Funkhouser: The overall number of tires shipped will decrease. However, because replacement market demand and OE dropped as a result of the slowdown, we are confident that we’ll be able to meet customer demand throughout the remainder of the year.

"We are confident that we’ll be able to meet customer demand throughout the remainder of the year," says Funkhouser. -

"We are confident that we’ll be able to meet customer demand throughout the remainder of the year," says Funkhouser.

MTD: New Class 8 truck orders and new trailer orders have dropped dramatically in recent months. What effect is this having on your OE business?  And how will the knock-on effect of low OE channel demand impact replacement tire sales?

Funkhouser: We are feeling the drop in demand like other manufacturers, but not quite to the same level. Since most of our OE sales are driven by our fleet customers and not standard fitments, the overall impact is limited by the changes in orders from those specific customers.

MTD: When do you expect OE and replacement tire demand to bottom out and when will demand – in both channels – start to rebound? What are you doing to prepare for this?

Funkhouser: I wish I had a crystal ball, but I believe we hit bottom in April and the first part of May. We’ve certainly seen positive movement since that time. As states start to reopen and people get back to work and manufacturing starts again, freight will increase. As freight increases, replacement tire demand will follow. We have been in constant communication with our customers to ensure we continue to help them get through this difficult time and prepare for the very near future.

MTD: Truck tire dealers have played an instrumental role in keeping fleets up and running during the COVID-19 pandemic. What are you doing to support your dealers? What advice do you have for them during this challenging time?

Funkhouser: We have been in constant communication with our dealer and truck stop network to ensure they have the product they need to keep fleets up and running during this turbulent time.

“My advice would be to continue safe, constant communication with your fleet customers,” says Funkhouser. “Their needs are changing daily as states reopen and business begins to increase.”

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