The farm tire market remained strong in 2022, despite some fill rate issues.
"For us in the aftermarket, 2022 was another year of solid growth," Titan's Hawkins said.
"We were able to grow our business a little bit, which is always good in a tough market, especially in radial rear ag, which is a hot category right now. There seems to be more and more of the businesses going that way, and we got a new entry in that area called the AgriEdge. It was very well accepted, and we sold quite a few of them. So it was a good year for us, especially in radial rear ag.
"OE was a similar story. We had a good year in OE. I think the story of ag as far as OE and aftermarket is a balancing act. There were not enough tires to go around (in 2021 and 2022). We decided we were going to set aside a fixed percentage for our aftermarket dealers," Hawkins said.
"We were able to fulfill commitments on the OE side and do a good job of servicing our aftermarket dealers. So overall I think it was a pretty successful year for Titan," he said.
"We saw year-over-year growth across all the different sizes, and certainly with respect to radial, demand has been very, very strong in 2022," Orlando said. "We anticipate another strong 2023. We anticipate, for both dealers and OE, year-over-year growth in both channels."
Fill rates were a lot longer early in 2022, but they have slowly gotten better with increased production, Orlando said.
"Demand was so strong it outstripped our ability to supply. Order fulfillment admittedly was low. It's taken a while. It's gotten substantially better in the past three months. But it was certainly a challenge for us in the first half of 2022," he said.
"Every indication that we have is (2023) should be a strong year, the whole year throughout the four quarters. There's always some risk that demand slows down because farmers are deciding they don't need the equipment, or they want to wait, or they can't afford equipment. So that's always a risk," he said.
"We're anticipating what I'll call industry demand up 5 percent, maybe as much as 10 percent, over 2022. We're continuing to hire within our Des Moines (Iowa) tire manufacturing plant. That is a strong focus for us," Orlando said.
Bridgestone aims to add "well over 100 people" at the Des Moines plant just to meet demand, he said, noting Bridgestone has the equipment capacity; it just doesn't have enough labor.
"We'll have more output from the plant, but it's not because of equipment; it will be more because of labor," Orlando said.
Titan also has been dealing with labor shortages at its tire plants.
"I don't think we're unique there; it's true throughout the country," Hawkins said. "So the consequence is we're doing a lot of training of our employees. We're being very careful about the people we recruit into our plants. We're trying to spend a lot of time making sure that we are a fit for them."
Titan didn't add a lot of equipment, but it did need to add more employees to "significantly increase our production," he said.
Hawkins said there has been, and continues to be, shortages of radial rear farm tires for tractors. He said Titan is taking capacity from other areas and moving it to production of these rear tires.
"We intend to have more of the radial rear farm tires this year. So maybe not an increase overall of capacity but an increase in the capacity that is in most demand," he said.
"We make decisions at the beginning of the year on what percentage is going to OE and which goes to aftermarket. Then we go out to our customers and try to tell them this is what we have available so we can be fair to everybody and support both sides of our business," Hawkins said, noting that to the customers Titan promised orders, "we did a good job of filling their orders."
Yokohama also has been expanding its tire manufacturing capacity, according to Cox.
"As our new factory in (Visakhapatnam) India begins its next phase of expansion, we expect to continue to be able to meet all our customers' needs across our range of sizes and market sectors," he said.
Last year shipping disruptions impacted not only the delivery of tires but also raw materials. But the situation is expected to improve this year, Cox said.
He predicted tire pricing in 2023 is going to be largely driven by raw material prices and shipping costs.
"If we can see those continue to fall, I believe we'll see it reflected in tire prices. We keep a close eye on costs and market conditions and do our best to make sure customers get the best possible value," Cox said.