LAS VEGAS—Private brand and wholesale tire distributor American Pacific Industries Inc. has entered into a partnership that manages China's Good Friend Tyre Co. Ltd. to support its plan to take the Gladiator brand global.
API joined the partnership with the owners of Good Friend Tyre, located in Jiaozuo in Henan Province, and a Hong Kong-based investment company about six months ago, according to API CEO Jeff Kreitzman, in an interview at the firm's booth at the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas.
API owns an undisclosed stake in the Hong Kong investment company and has made a “substantial” investment in the factory itself, Kreitzman said.
Good Friend Tyre will retain its name, and API will link the Gladiator and GFT names in its sales and marketing efforts, the company said. GFT already is a producer of Gladiator-brand tires for API and the partners plan to ramp up production to make it a primary source for the brand. “We wanted to go beyond contract manufacturing,” Kreitzman said of the purchase, “and be able to control our product and the way we build it and sell it.”
API is evaluating the possibility of investing in a second plant, he said, but cautioned that's a longer-term goal.
The Good Friend plant has the capacity to make about 1.2 million truck tires a year, Kreitzman said. Good Friend's investors spent $82 million in 2005 to construct the factory, according to Good Friend's Web site.
To support its expansion plans for Gladiator, Valencia, Calif.-based API recently hired longtime Bridgestone Americas sales executive Art Campagnoni as its director of truck tire sales, and earlier this year hired Barry Littrell, former president of Carlisle Tire & Wheel Co., as chief operating officer.
“I think people judge a company a lot by the quality of its personnel,” Kreitzman said, “and I think we have a great team.”
Campagnoni will be evaluating the Gladiator truck tire line and making suggestions for additions and improvements, Kreitzman said. The company is conducting tests now to get the Gladiator tires certified under the Environmental Protection Agency's SmartWay program for fuel-efficient products.
“We want to elevate the product quality and develop a range of products that presents our customers with enhanced added value, to help them make more money,” he said.
API plans to expand the Gladiator line to include passenger, light truck and OTR tires, Kreitzman said. API has set up two distributors in Europe to handle most of the markets there, he said, and is working on establishing distributors in Central and South America.
Supporting the company's goals is its purchase two years ago of International Tire Engineering Resources L.L.C. in San Antonio, Texas. This engineering services company helps with getting new tire lines introduced to the product mix at API's contract manufacturers and now will assist in improving the Good Friend plant to accommodate the expanded product range, Kreitzman said.
API also plans to expand its Pegasus light truck and Achilles passenger tire lines, he said. The Achilles line is made in Indonesia and not subject to the high duties recently imposed on Chinese-made consumer tires.
As for Chinese-made consumer tires API does sell, the company raised prices for these products 15 to 20 percent Nov. 1 to compensate for the additional 35-percent duty imposed in late September.