AKRON—Tire manufacturers tend to agree that 2013 ended up being a difficult year for the industry, most notably because of the adjustments that had to be made with the removal of tariffs on Chinese-made passenger and light truck tires and low-price product coming in.
The current unstable nature of the U.S. economy still concerns tire manufacturers, but many still saw growth in 2013.
Despite the problems of last year, however, many tire firms are going ahead with expansion projects and new product launches.
"From an operational standpoint we did very well," said John Baratta, Bridgestone Americas Inc. president, consumer tire replacement sales. "Our OE business was very strong and replacement had moderate growth. Both OE and replacement had significant growth in strategic and higher rim categories."
On Bridgestone's commercial side of the business, Matt Stevenson, vice president of marketing for the commercial marketing division, said "business was overall very sound, but there was some uncertainty related to economic conditions."
Bob Phoenix, vice president of automotive sales for American Kenda Rubber Industrial Co. Ltd., had a similar sentiment.
"The economy is still a concern. We are seeing indicators that it is improving, but only at a slow rate," he said.
Tom McNamara, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Giti Tire (USA) Ltd., said the company was pleased with 2013 results "in spite of multiple market challenges, persistently higher unemployment rates in the U.S. and slow economic growth."
He added that "our national retail footprint has grown as a result of recognition of our product quality, our supply chain capabilities and our commitment to our dealers."