TOKYO—Sumitomo Rubber Industries will open a technical center at its Tonawanda, N.Y., factory in January 2017 in a bid to develop products more rapidly and "respond to the needs of customers in North and South America."
The company also is planning to expand the use of a 70-acre U.S. test track in Huntsville, Ala., for four-wheel vehicles, starting in March; the facility, until now, been used solely for motorcycle tire testing, SRI said.
Sumitomo has built a 37,660-sq.-ft. structure on the grounds of the Tonawanda factory it acquired in October 2015 following the dissolution of its 16-year global alliance with Goodyear.
At that time, SRI said it had taken a more active approach to improve its R&D, production and sales infrastructure in the Americas market.
SRI did not comment on the size of the staff to be employed at the tech center nor disclose its investment in the projects.
The Huntsville testing facility offers a high-speed circuit track, handling test track, brake test track, and skid pad—specialized road surface for testing cornering.
SRI also stated it was moving forward with the preparations for a Europe Technical Center, which is scheduled to be fully operational from September of 2017.
The two centers are part of SRI's bid to "accelerate" its business expansion in North America and Europe, as declared in its long-term policy Vision 2020.
Sumitomo is in the midst of an $87 million expansion project at the Tonawanda plant that will double capacity for passenger car and light truck tires to 10,000 tires per day by year-end 2019.
The Tonawanda plant—opened originally in 1923 by Dunlop Tyre Ltd.—also has capacities for medium radial truck and radial motorcycle tires. Workers at the plant are represented by United Steelworkers Union Local 135.
The test track, built by Dunlop Holdings P.L.C., is adjacent to a tire plant that was built there in 1969. Goodyear took over that plant in 1999 as part of the SRI-Goodyear global alliance. It closed the plant in 2003 but kept the track in operation.