LAS VEGAS—Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd.'s global reorganization earlier this year into seven business units gives its U.S.-based operation a measure of independence.
Toyo Tire Holdings America Inc., which oversees all the Japanese company's operations in the North America, has provided "North America more autonomy to develop our own products and synergies between Canada, Mexico and the U.S.," said James L. Hawk, who was named chairman of the business.
Hawk continues as president of Toyo Tire North America, which is Toyo's U.S. manufacturing arm in White, Ga. He also serves as a senior corporate officer of Toyo in Japan.
Toyo previously was like a lot of companies, Hawk said while attending the recent SEMA Show inLas Vegas, in that it had a number of satellite sales organizations reporting back to the home office.
"So in our case it was not efficient because we had Canada, U.S. and Mexican sales operations independently report back to Japan," he said. "So we consolidated all that under a North America business unit."
Hawk said a key objective behind the consolidation is to develop synergies among these previously independent organizations, with the ultimate goal of improving customer service, including distribution and fill rates.
This effort also includes new product development, an area where Hawk said he has been working on starting up a development center at the Georgia facility over the past four years for passenger and light truck tires.
The new products the company showcased at SEMA, for example, were developed there.
"We still rely on Japan for the real basic and very detailed research and development," he said, "but the products from North America are very unique to the rest of the world. We're a huge light truck market, and you don't see that much in the rest of the world."
Development work for Toyo's medium truck tires continues to be driven from Japan.
Asked about progress at the White plant, Hawk said it has seen steady production capacity growth since beginning tire manufacturing in October 2005.
The highly automated facility, which initially had capacity of 1.5 million tires a year, now is producing 4.7 million Toyo- and Nitto-brand tires annually following two expansions.
The plant features Toyo's Automated Tire Operating Module manufacturing system and still has room to grow.
"The nice thing about the ATOM process is we can grow incrementally," Hawk said. "It's very modular by design. We don't have to build a 40,000 or 50,000 (unit per day) tire plant and then go look for business."
Hawk joined Toyo in December 2004 from Yokohama Tire Corp., where he was vice president of manufacturing. In 2008 he was named president of Toyo Tire North America Manufacturing as well as a corporate officer for the parent company, the first American so appointed.
Before his time at Yokohama, he spent 23 years at Continental General Tire, also in manufacturing.
Hawk is based at Toyo's facility inGeorgia.
Toyo also named Noriyuki Dan as president of Toyo Tire Holdings, replacing Takashi Shimizu, who returned to Japan where he assumed Dan's previous position as general manager of Toyo's tire business unit and administrative department.