If numbers can tell a story, then 2010 for the rubber industry was definitely the year of the rebound.
Several numbers jump out in the Rubber & Plastics News annual ranking of the top 50 North American rubber product makers, based on 2010 sales.
* during 2010, 42 of the manufacturers showed increases in sales for their rubber goods in North America. In last year's ranking, 39 of the companies experienced declines in revenues for 2009, when the rubber industry was suffering the impact of the economic recession;
* the top 10 firms in this year's listing posted aggregate rubber product sales on the continent of $35.4 billion, an 18.8-percent boost over the $29.8 billion recorded by the companies that made up last year's top 10;
* for 2010, a total of 13 rubber companies—seven of them mainly tire manufacturers—posted $1 billion or more in North American rubber product sales, while for 2009 the billionaire's club boasted just nine companies.
From a global perspective, the rebound was apparent as well. All but three of the companies ranked among the top 50 non-tire rubber product makers that also were on last year's list showed an increase in revenue for 2010.
Technically, Goodyear regains bragging rights as the top rubber product maker in North America, posting sales on the continent last year of $8.205 billion, just $5 million more than the $8.2 billion reported by Michelin North America Inc., according to data submitted by the two companies.
In terms of statistical reality, the difference almost can be answered as a difference in rounding. In last year's ranking, Michelin took the top spot in the continent over Goodyear by a razor-thin margin of $23 million—with $7 billion in sales compared to Goodyear's $6.977 billion.
Both of the tire makers gained most of their growth last year in North America in original equipment sales. Michelin's car and light truck OE sales gained 39 percent—compared with just a 4-percent rise in replacement sales—and Goodyear's OE units jumped 25.4 percent on the continent, with its aftermarket business up just 1.4 percent.
Bridgestone Americas Inc., the other of the top global tire makers, again held down the No. 3 spot in North America, with estimated rubber product sales of $7.44 billion, a 24-percent gain from its revenues for 2009. Unlike Goodyear and Michelin, Bridgestone also obtains a significant amount of sales from a variety of non-tire rubber products, including air springs, rubber roofing and golf balls.
The No. 4-6 spots remained the same as last year, with Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. No. 4 with $2.42 billion, Continental A.G.'s North American operations No. 5 at $2.32 billion and Tomkins P.L.C. No. 6 with $1.96 billion in revenues on the continent. Tomkins again was the top purely non-tire company in the rankings, with its sales supplied by its Gates, Trico and Tridon operations.
There was a bit of a shakeup in the rest of the top 10. Hutchinson North America made a significant leap from No. 14 to No. 7, with its $1.26 billion in sales for 2010, 58.6-percent ahead of its 2009 revenues.
The other newcomer to the top 10 was Cooper-Standard Automotive Inc. rising from No. 12 to No. 8. Its North American sales grew 37.2 percent to $1.25 billion on the year.
Rounding out the top 10 were Carlisle Companies Inc., which moved up one notch to No. 9 with $1.19 billion, and Parker-Hannifin Corp. which dropped three slots to No. 10 with $1.18 billion.
The entire table of 50 companies will appear on this website shortly.