AKRON (July 22)—France's Hutchinson S.A., by virtue of its own growth and currency exchange fluctuations, was the largest producer worldwide of non-tire rubber products in 2001, according to Rubber & Plastics News' annual analysis of global sales data. Hutchinson's rubber-related sales of $2.16 billion last year—up 4.9 percent over 2000—moved it ahead of Japan's Bridgestone Corp. and Germany's Freudenberg Group, with sales of $2.07 billion and $2.06 billion, respectively. Hutchinson's growth resulted primarily from acquisitions, including the sealing systems business of Iacesa of Mexico. Freudenberg, No. 2 or No. 3 globally for the past several years, could file a claim on the top spot, however, because of its alliances: Freudenberg is a joint venture partner in Vibracoustic Holding GmbH—itself a Top 50 player with $333 million in sales—and is a minority shareholder in Japan's NOK Inc., which ranks 11th worldwide with sales of $1.12 billion.