MTD Mid-Year Q&A: Tsai Talks Greenball’s Evolution

July 1, 2024

Greenball Corp. is in the midst of a transformation. Randy Tsai, Greenball’s senior vice president, discusses what this looks like, from products and plants to people.

MTD: Can you bring us up to speed on Greenball’s ongoing evolution and significant changes that have been implemented at the company over the last couple of years?

Tsai: Our business model has changed a little bit. Ten to 15 years ago, we tried to focus on being a one-stop shop for all kinds of specialty tires – everything from golf cart and lawn and garden tires to farm, OTR and industrial. Unfortunately, that got really tough to do with tariffs and duties (and) it changed the business model for a lot of companies. At the same time, a lot of competition came into the market, so the specialty tire market became crowded and harder to be profitable in. It became tough to compete in several of these different specialty tire segments.

Over the past 10 years, we’ve concentrated more on certain segments where we feel we have an edge and better brand awareness and in the end, are more profitable. While we have farm, OTR and industrial (tire) offerings, these are products we no longer warehouse stateside. They’re pretty much only available as direct container programs.

We’re now more concentrated on (other segments) - for example, off-road light truck and powersport tires, with ATV and side-by-side tires, (and) trailer tires. Golf cart tires are still a major product for us. We don’t have quite the huge lawn and garden (tire) offering that we used to, but we still offer them.

MTD: Greenball has made a big investment in its Kanati light truck tire brand. What are some of the opportunities you see in the light truck tire segment?

Tsai: Light truck is a huge market. There’s huge demand for trucks and SUVs. As a result, there are a lot of light truck tires out there.

Every major manufacturer has a mud-terrain tire and an all-terrain (light truck tire). We’re focusing our Kanati line on the niche side of the light truck tire segment. A lot of the tires being sold today are meant for the mass consumer market. But there’s still demand for tires that not only look good and have that modern design, but are also truly off-road-capable. And that’s where we’re focusing the Kanati line. It’s an off-road brand that has true off-road capability.

We’ve always had a strong presence with specialty trailer radial tires and UTV side-by-side tires. Everyone with an ATV or UTV has a trailer. And if they have a trailer, they have a truck. These folks are true enthusiasts, who are actually going off-road into the desert and into the mountains. They asked us, ‘When are you going to come out with a light truck tire?’

MTD: Where are Greenball’s tires made?

Tsai: Seventy percent of our products are coming out of Indonesia. Another 20% comes out of Thailand and the rest comes out of China.

MTD: How would you describe your fill rates in the U.S. right now?

Tsai: Demand was through the roof during COVID-19. Anything we brought in was sold. It was a seller’s market. During that time, it was difficult to keep up with demand and shipping was a whole other issue. Then in May 2022, everything - within a short period of time – stopped. It was like somebody turned off the water. When you have to plan for 90- to 120-day lead times from ordering to production to shipping to (being) on-water... and demand drops off quite suddenly, you’re stuck with quite a lot of products coming in that you’re responsible for. And that wasn’t just us. That was every other importer out there.

When things started to normalize post-COVID, we had a lot of products coming in at extremely high cost that we had to digest for the rest of 2022 and all of 2023. Unfortunately, this affected our factories and production lines.

After we got through that flood of product, though, and restarted production, demand is somewhat back to normal. We’re on track to bring production back to 100%. Last month alone, one of our warehouses saw 50 or 60 containers of products meant for inventory. (Editor’s note: Greenball has two U.S. distribution centers – one in Gardena, Calif., and another in Atlanta, Ga.)

MTD: Is Greenball making any substantial investments in its plants and production capacity?

Tsai: We've always strived to be on the leading edge of development. We’re always trying to make differentiated products. Often times, that requires additional hardware or production capabilities at the factories that we source from. We’re constantly in development.

One thing Greenball has always been known for is building unique products. We still get inquiries from OEMs who are looking for something that doesn’t exist. We’ll work with them and from the development we do, we also end up finding specialty applications that may not be originally intended for a product.

MTD: So Greenball can build to spec, if the demand is there?

Tsai: Yes. That’s one of the things that’s unique to Greenball. We’re a small guy compared to a lot of other tire brands. We can take on these smaller projects that other suppliers may not want to.

MTD: Are you making any investments in your U.S. sales team and its capabilities?

Tsai: We’re always looking for and adding qualified salespeople. Our biggest investment over the last several months is our online ordering portal for wholesalers. The vast majority of dealers and wholesalers like to see live inventory and want to place their orders directly online. We had this function prior to COVID-19. They could place an order and get an immediate acknowledgement and in a lot of cases, get a rough delivery date.

But during COVID-19, demand was so high that we couldn’t accurately keep inventory on-hand. Product was moving so fast that our online portal wasn’t reliable. Everybody was scrambling for product at that time. So the portal was kind of put aside.

Coming out of COVID-19, we restarted the portal, but found out that (the company) we sourced that from no longer supported the function. We had to go back and start all over with a new portal. We’re almost at the testing phase. As soon as we can test it and make sure we have all the bugs out, we’re going to roll it out to our wholesalers and dealers, because we know that’s one of the preferred ways to place orders.

MTD: How do you see the U.S. market, in terms of demand?

Tsai: 2024 is going to be a unique year for the overall economy. Thankfully, the Fed hasn’t increased interest rates recently, but who knows? Will rates stay the same? Will they decrease? Every week you hear something different.

World events have had a big effect on things recently. At the beginning of the year, there were issues with (shipping through) the Red Sea. We saw ocean freight increases. A lot of that has stabilized, thankfully.

I think the biggest question right now is, ‘Is the economy back to normal?’ Based on the conversations we’ve had with our customers, it’s still a big toss-up. How much is a true slowdown or just an evening-out from COVID-19?

About the Author

Mike Manges | Editor

Mike Manges is Modern Tire Dealer’s editor. A 25-year tire industry veteran, he is a three-time International Automotive Media Association award winner and holds a Gold Award from the Association of Automotive Publication Editors. Mike has traveled the world in pursuit of stories that will help independent tire dealers move their businesses forward. Before rejoining MTD in September 2019, he held corporate communications positions at two Fortune 500 companies and served as MTD’s senior editor from 2000 to 2010.