HILTON HEAD, S.C.—In a time of rapid technological and market change, tire makers have to be ready to implement a number of future scenarios to ensure solid technology and business development, according to a speaker at the 34th Clemson University Global Tire Industry Conference.
"The automotive industry is changing faster than any other time in its history," James A. Popio, vice president of operations, North America, for Smithers Rapra, said at the recent conference in Hilton Head. "Global dynamics and social dynamics are changing quickly. The future is not clear, so we must be ready for any number of scenarios."
Global economic, health and trade policies are helping to fuel the rapid change in markets, according to Popio.
Growth in China is slowing down, he said, but global Gross Domestic Product is expected to exceed 3 percent globally for the next five years, he said.
There also are many uncertainties in international trade and development, according to Popio. Reductions in U.S. tariffs on Chinese tires combine with potential U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs to make the picture on trade unclear, he said.
Brexit, the U.S. exit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the threatened U.S. withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement have caused shifts in the global trade outlook, according to Popio.
So have changes in global tire manufacturing, with transfers of production from China to Southeast Asia and recent investments in Eastern Europe and the U.S., he said.
With expanding market shares for SUVs and sports cars, high-performance, specialty and premium tires are now much more in demand, according to Popio.
The advent of electric vehicles is creating higher load demands because of heavy battery packs, while the development of autonomous vehicles is creating new impetus toward fuel efficiency, higher performance, reliability, durability and intelligence via sensors, he said.