Triangle Tyre Group has set its sights on growth in the U.S. tire market, a proposition that may be difficult but also one that has tremendous potential.
The tire manufacturer ranks as the No. 2 Chinese tire firm, and for 2014 ranked No. 15 overall globally with sales of about $2.87 billion. The company, though, didn't register in terms of tire sales in North America, not ranking among the top 14 tire companies on the continent.
From there, though, the company basically will have nowhere to go but up, and it won't necessarily have to invest a ton of money to find out if it can succeed in the U.S. market. Thus far, it has operated a U.S. technical center in Akron since 2011, and earlier this year it established a U.S. headquarters in Tennessee.
It also put a familiar face in as CEO of its new Triangle Tire USA subsidiary. Manny Cicero has spent nearly four decades in the tire business, starting with Michelin in 1978, moving onto Bridgestone in 1984, where he spent more than 20 years. Following that were stints as the CEO of the former Denman Tire Corp. and as president of Alliance Tire USA.
Cicero points particularly to his stint with Bridgestone, which at the time was an afterthought in the U.S. tire market, a good four years before it made its big splash by buying Firestone. Even then it took years to transform the firm to where the Bridgestone name meant anything in the U.S. market. And Cicero is rightly proud of the role he helped play in the transformation.
Since then, a number of other Asian tire makers have seen rising fortunes in North America. Hankook, Toyo and Yokohama all boasted more than $1.2 billion in North American tire sales for 2014, with Kumho coming in at $700 million and Giti Tire at $650 million.
One thing all of those firms have in common is they either have U.S.-based tire factories or are in the process of establishing them.
Cicero believes Triangle can be successful without having a U.S. production base. He says it is much more important for his firm to attack the market from a customer-centric point of view. Triangle will focus on gaining high quality tire distributors and dealers to sell its line of tires, which range from passenger/light truck to truck/bus and off-road tires, one of its success areas.
Of course it won't be easy. The North American landscape for tires is crowded, and imports of Chinese tires are facing potential antidumping tariffs and countervailing duties in all of those areas.
But Cicero and Triangle are looking at this for the long haul, putting together five- and 10-year growth plans. And in the end, it's a path that holds little risk, but the possibility of high rewards.