New Toyo CEO Sees Big Opportunities
'Our Biggest Challenge is Getting More Supply to Market'
Michael Graber, the new president and CEO of Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp., says there is high demand for the company's products. “Our distributors and dealers are asking for more supply and are very optimistic about 2022." Graber discusses how Toyo plans to meet heightened levels of demand - plus other opportunities the company is pursuing - in this MTD interview.
MTD: Can you describe the performance of Toyo's overall business in 2021 and during the first five months of 2022? What were the bright spots? What have the challenges been? Has Toyo's business rebounded to pre-pandemic levels? What are you hearing from tire dealers?
Graber: 2021 was a successful year for our business, posting year-over-year unit sales growth and exceeding our targets on revenue and profit. So far in 2022, we are off to a good start and see demand rising for our tires.
Our business has continued to exceed pre-pandemic levels and we continue to invest in new and innovative product developments. Our distributors and dealers are asking for more supply and are very optimistic about 2022.
MTD: How would you describe the current state of Toyo's passenger and light truck tire supply coming out of the company's plant in White, Ga.? How about the supply of Toyo commercial truck tires coming out of Japan? How would you describe Toyo's fill rates to its dealer channel right now?
Graber: We have certainly faced the same supply challenges as our competitors due to increased demand and the well-documented stresses on the system. Improving our fill rates to the dealer channel is a central focus of the entire organization and (Toyo’s) four factories supplying tires to the U.S. have increased output to keep up with the unprecedented demand.
We are excited for the opening of our passenger and light truck factory in Serbia later this year and expect our fill rates to consistently improve through 2022 and into 2023.
We have seen some easing of the ocean freight bottlenecks recently and hope that trend continues.
MTD: Can you bring us up to speed on Toyo's plans to ramp up capacity - and invest in - the Georgia plant? Did the pandemic slow this down or are things proceeding according to the company's original plans?
Graber: As mentioned, we have a new factory in Serbia coming online later in 2022. The new plant will provide much needed supply to the U.S. market and allow us to improve efficiency worldwide. We have continued to invest in White, Ga., with a focus on the North American market.
MTD: Right now, electric vehicles (EVs) are a small part of the overall North American car parc. But I would have to think you see a big opportunity for Toyo to be a player in the EV tire market. Is that true? If so, can you elaborate? Where do you see the EV market going? And what opportunities exist there for Toyo?
Graber: We certainly see the EV market as a central growth area for Toyo. Our new product development team has been working on our EV product strategy across applications. The market will continue to grow and we are working on innovative new products in the EV segment.
MTD: What are Toyo's biggest growth opportunities in North America? And what role will Toyo's tire dealer channel play in that growth?
Graber: As mentioned, the continued growth of EVs is a huge opportunity. We are also focused on the commercial segment, both in TBR products and light truck last-mile delivery applications. Besides the emerging segments, we intend to maintain our position in non-commercial light truck applications by evolving the Open Country product line.
In all segments, our dealer partners are critical to growing our brand. We steadfastly believe in listening to our dealers and responding with products and programs to help them be successful.
MTD: What's the biggest challenge facing Toyo at the moment? What can tire dealers expect to see from Toyo during the rest of 2022 and into the new year?
Graber: Our biggest challenge is getting more supply to the market. The consistent message we hear (from customers) is “get us more tires”. We hear them and we are committed to improving fill rates, increasing supply and constantly improving our value to their businesses. This will continue through 2022 and beyond.