HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C.—China is not just the starting point for “Chinese-made tires,” according to speakers at the 25th annual Clemson University Tire Industry Conference, held in Hilton Head April 1-3.
Brand names of tires manufactured in China, by tire companies founded there, are quickly becoming world-renowned, and the nation also is primed to begin commercial tire retreading in a big way, they said.
The Double Coin brand name has been a byword in China since it was first used for rubber products made in the Ta Chung Hua Rubber Factory in Shanghai in 1927, said Aaron C. Murphy, vice president of China Manufacturers Alliance L.L.C., the U.S. subsidiary of Double Coin. The first tires bearing the Double Coin name were bicycle tires manufactured in 1934.
Ta Chung Hua merged with Zhengtai Rubber Factory, manufacturer of Warrior tires, in 1990 to form Shanghai Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd., according to Murphy. In 2007, Shanghai Tire changed its name to Double Coin Holdings Ltd., to stress the fame and value of the Double Coin brand name, he said.
“Double Coin tires are manufactured in China, which makes them no different from eight out of 10 tires made in the world today,” Murphy said. “China is a place to bring your technology, manufacture your tires cost-competitively and export them globally.”
Like other Chinese tire makers, Double Coin finds it necessary to have manufacturing facilities throughout China because of the difficulty of moving from North to South China and back, Murphy said. The Double Coin plant in Chongqing, which builds 2 million truck and bus radials annually, was established in 2007 to supply the Chinese domestic market.
Other Double Coin factories include:
* Double Coin Heavy-Duty Tire Co., founded in Shanghai in 1990, which produces 2.9 million truck-bus radials and 30,000 radial off-the-road tires annually;
* Double Coin Rugao Tire Co., built in Jiangsu in 2004, which manufactures 2.5 million truck-bus radials and 70,000 radial OTR tires annually;
* Shanghai Michelin Warrior Tire Co. Ltd. in Shanghai, a joint venture with Michelin since 1991 with 30-percent Double Coin ownership, which produces 7 million passenger radials annually; and
* The Double Coin Tire Research Institute in Shanghai, which focuses on research and development for testing, compounds, processes and products, as well as providing technical support for all Double Coin factories.
Double Coin also has a significant retail presence throughout China, with more than 50 “Double Coin Houses” dedicated to Double Coin-brand tires and products and an additional 500-plus retailers that are members of the “Double Coin Star” retail supply network.
“We provide constant supply support—something you haven't seen before in China,” Murphy said.
China still lags behind the West in retreading, with less than 1 percent of Chinese truck tires retreaded, according to Murphy. “We look forward to pursuing retreading in North America and leading interest in retreading in China,” he said.
China, India and other developing countries are becoming very interested in retreading, but although truckers and tire manufacturers in China are raring to go, government interest has yet to be awakened, according to Harvey Brodsky, managing director of the Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau.
Officials of Reifen China, the major tire show in China, asked Brodsky to meet with the head of the Chinese retreading association, which in China is a state job given to a government bureaucrat, he said. Speaking through interpreters, they had what Brodsky said was an intense meeting that lasted several hours.
“As this meeting unfolded, I came to the conclusion that it was a waste of time,” he said. “She really didn't know much about the trucking industry. I said, 'There must be trucking shows in China.' She said she didn't know.”
This is particularly unfortunate, Brodsky said, because if there's a country that could really use retreading technology or instruction for truckers to take care of their casings, it's China.
“I was astounded at the trucks I saw in China,” he said. “To say they are overloaded is an understatement, and there's an attitude among truckers that they'll use the tires till they hear metal scraping. Fortunately that is changing, in China and also in India.
“Truckers must be educated about proper tire maintenance,” Brodsky said about the drivers in those countries. “It won't happen overnight, but it can be done.”
With their proven cost savings, environmental benefits and adjustment rates that match or even improve upon those of Tier 1 truck tire suppliers, retreads are urgently needed in developing countries, according to Brodsky.
“We've been the Rodney Dangerfields of the tire industry, but fortunately that is changing,” he said.
The retreading industry that currently exists in China is largely but not completely primitive, according to Brodsky. Tire companies such as Double Coin are highly motivated toward promoting high-quality retreading, he said, but there is still a lot of work to be done to persuade truckers in China, India and elsewhere to buy retreads.
Retreaders need to contact trucking show promoters in China and volunteer to talk to truckers, and also contact Asian radio networks that broadcast trucking shows, according to Brodsky. “No one is a better audience for a radio than a trucker,” he said.
China and India also could learn a great deal from Brazil, which has the second-largest retreading industry in the world next to the U.S., Brodsky said.