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!
Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp. expects a “strong rebound” in truck tire demand this summer, says Michael Graber, the company's vice president of sales. In this interview, Graber discusses Toyo’s supply position and related topics at mid-year.
MTD: How did the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting government actions impact your commercial truck tire business in the United States and Canada?
Graber: Like most others in the commercial tire industry, we experienced an expected decline in sales through the initial stage of the pandemic. However, the decline was slight in our case, and we saw a normalizing of volume in the second half of April. We have remained optimistic and expect a strong rebound as we come into the summer months.
MTD: A number of tire manufacturers temporarily suspended production at their U.S.-based truck tire plants. It is expected that these shutdowns and/or production suspensions will have a dramatic impact on truck tire shipments for the rest of the year. Can you quantify expected shipment declines?
Graber: It would be difficult to speculate on the overall market decline since Toyo imports all medium truck products from Japan. As far as Toyo volumes, we have had no suspension of production in our medium truck tire factory in Kuwana, Japan. The factory has continued to produce at capacity, which will allow us to support the replacement tire segment as demand increases in the next few months.
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?
Graber: Since Toyo does not supply OE tires in the commercial segment, I will speak to the replacement market. We expect demand to gradually increase and return to normal levels later in the year. The timing really depends on the success of the reopening efforts of the states. Toyo has maintained regular production of all medium truck products and will be ready for the demand when it returns
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?
Graber: We have stayed in regular contact with our dealers throughout the pandemic. Like everyone else, we have practiced our new skills in video conferencing and stayed in touch with them as often as they can make time for us.
“We feel like the best way to serve the dealers in a time like this is to be available, transparent and empathetic,” says Graber. “We have forged stronger bonds with many. As always, we strive to support our customers and we are learning new ways to be supportive as the conditions change."