Titan International Inc. has produced only one prototype 63-inch radial off-the-road tire and already Chairman and CEO Maurice Taylor Jr. is putting the world's OTR tire industry on notice.
``In the next 18 months, we not only are going to make the current designs, we are going to build something that will make them all obsolete,'' Taylor said bluntly in his keynote address at the Tire Industry Association's annual Off-the-Road Tire Conference in Hawaii. ``I figure that way it'll keep everybody on their toes. We're also going to turn around and we're going to make them so they are not a commodity but they're an engineered system.''
Titan, he said, is the only company in the world that makes both tires and wheels for the farm and OTR tire markets.
While Taylor provided few details about how Titan's OTR products will be different, the CEO made it perfectly clear that the company will be a big player in the market.
He's so confident, in fact, that even with the first prototype 63-inch tire still warm out of the press at the firm's Bryan, Ohio, plant, Taylor's expanding his production plans.
Originally, he envisioned making 6,000 of the ultra-large tires annually, but, as he put it, ``I missed the mark. We'll have capacity to produce 15,000 63-inch tires,'' he said.
Since the market likely can't use that many tires, Titan will fill every other size, he added.
Coinciding with Titan's entry into giant 57-inch and 63-inch radial OTR tire production, Taylor sees an end to the OTR tire shortage that's plagued the industry the past few years. ``I think you can say the current OTR shortage will diminish in the first quarter of '09,'' he said.
But that doesn't mean demand will slip, he added. ``Things are going to be pretty damn good. But I do believe this shortage is going to go away.''
In discussing Titan's plans, Taylor said the OTR tire business is ripe for change. ``What we're going to do is going to affect all of you in the aftermarket. Because, you see, to make money you have to change. Otherwise you're just selling a commodity.''
The way to do this is to be innovative, come up with something new. ``And that's what we're planning to do, and I think we proved it by doing the 63-inch,'' he said.
Taylor said one reason Titan will succeed in the estimated $2.5 billion OTR tire market is that the company is focused on farm and OTR tires and wheels while he claimed larger competitors Goodyear, Bridgestone/Firestone and Michelin North America Inc. are driven more by car and truck tires.
Taylor cited the speed and entrepreneurial spirit in which Titan was able to develop its 63-inch OTR tire. It took only seven months to erect a building in Bryan and to produce the first prototype tire, he said.
To help accomplish this, the company hired a number of retired engineers from the big tire companies. ``The problem you have in a business like ours is...you've got to get them out of the mold of a big company,'' Taylor said. ``You've got to get them to where they make decisions themselves. You take a risk and you go.''
The company also hired 14 new young engineers and brought Titan wheel engineers into the mix. ``Why do you bring the wheel boys in? Because they don't think like the rubber boys. And the tire doesn't work without a wheel,'' he explained.
Along with the new giant radial OTR sizes, Taylor said the company's new design also will replace current bias tires, and the firm is developing new underground tires and wheels.
Taylor predicted the farm tire segment is ``ready to rocket, too,'' and Titan is preparing for this as well.
The company just announced it will add 38 agricultural tire curing presses, ranging in press sizes from 85 to 100 inches, at its tire facilities to increase capacity for larger-size farm tires.
Titan makes agricultural tires at all three of its U.S. plants, in Des Moines, Iowa; Freeport, Ill.; and Bryan, but the tire maker has threatened to move some farm tire capacity out of Freeport unless workers there agree to some workplace changes to make the plant more profitable.
The new presses should be installed by August to ease shortages in the large agricultural tire segment, the company said.
Taylor did not disclose what investment the company will make in the new farm tire presses. The company has budgeted at least $30 million to fund the installation at Bryan for the large OTR tires.
In ending his presentation, Taylor hinted that his retirement is on the horizon. ``Like fireworks, I am in the grand finale of my career in wheels and tires. So hopefully I will leave with a real bang.''