How Tire Plant Shutdowns and Imports Affected the Retread Market

April 9, 2021

Amid all the strangeness of 2020, retreaders faced a couple of unusual circumstances that had the potential to shake up their business.

The first was the spring shutdown of nearly every new truck tire manufacturing plant in the U.S. Tiremakers turned off the production pipeline when lockdowns across the country brought the economy to a screeching halt.

The slowdown of the economy also cooled demand for low-cost imported truck tires, which have been mounting pressure on retreaders in recent years. But those imports didn’t seem to raise the ire of dealers as much over the last 12 months.

Add to that high demand for trucking and all of this added up to a winning season for retreaders.

Chris Chase, CEO and president of Donald B. Rice Tire Co. Inc., saw some hopeful signs. “Prices of imports are rising and they are in short supply,” he says. “But it hasn’t translated into more demand for retreads.”

Imports are still having the same impact on business at Massillon, Ohio-based Ziegler Tire & Supply Co., says Vice President John Ziegler.

“It’s about the same as last year,” but he notes the flow of those tires is highly irregular. “It’s more delayed than in years past.”

Earl Colvard, president of Earl W. Colvard Inc. dba Boulevard Tire Center, didn’t see a change. “Many smaller fleets are still not retreading due to low-cost imports,” he says.

Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc. consolidated its three retread plants into a single facility in Bend, Ore.,but a spokesperson says neither imports nor new tire factory shutdowns altered its business. “Our retreading business was largely unaffected by external factors last year.”

Les Schwab was sold to an investment firm, Meritage Group LP, during November 2020.

David Mickelson, CEO and president of Graham Tire Co., says retreading was fairly strong throughout the year. Tiremakers shutting down production last spring didn’t have a big impact on his business in 2020.

Mike Weber, vice president of operations and manufacturing at Bauer Built Inc., calls new tire supply “very poor.” He says that Bauer Built’s retreading sales “were fairly flat” during 2020.

Bob Beasley, president of Beasley Tire Service Inc., says plant shutdowns made it harder to meet customers’ new tire demand, but it didn’t affect shipments of retread rubber.

“The struggles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic were real. However, the decline in oilfield business had much more impact on our revenues.Our retread business remained stable.”

Beasley Tire Service is based in a city with an economy built on the oil business — Houston, Texas.

In Minnesota, Royal Tire was able to capitalize on the tire manufacturing shutdown.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in cap and casing sales,” says Mick Pickens, president. “We attribute a portion of this to the lack of entry-level, new medium truck tires.”

He’s banking on another good year. “Our retreading was up last year and we expect it to be up around 10% in 2021.”

Read MTD's full 2021 report on the top retreaders in the U.S. here.

About the Author

Joy Kopcha | Managing Editor

After more than a dozen years working as a newspaper reporter in Kansas, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, Joy Kopcha joined Modern Tire Dealer as senior editor in 2014. She has covered murder trials, a prison riot and more city council, county commission, and school board meetings than she cares to remember.