AKRON—Even as capital spending by the world's tire makers on new plants and capacity expansions slows, and some tire plant projects have been suspended, the industry will grow measurably this year as five new plants announced in the past few years either have come on stream or are set to before year-end.
These projects collectively represent $3.8 billion in capital spending and more than 12 million units of new production capacity, according to Rubber & Plastics News' calculations.
At the same time, two high-profile new tire factory projects in the U.S. valued at over $630 million—Balkrishna Industries Ltd.'s and Qingdao Sentury Tire Group's—have been put on indefinite hold.
New plants brought on stream thus far this year include:
• Continental A.G.'s $265 million car and light truck tire plant in Rayong, Thailand, started production in March on schedule, two years after the company broke ground on the project. The plant is designed to produce up to 4 million tires per year for Thailand and the Asia Pacific region by 2022, Continental said, with up to 900 employees at full production.
The facility is Conti's sixth tire plant in the Asia/Pacific region and 20th worldwide.
• Nexen Tire Corp.'s $1 billion manufacturing complex in Zatec, Czech Republic, began trial production in April and was ceremoniously commissioned Aug. 28. The 7 million-sq.-ft. Zatec factory is rated at 3 million units of capacity at start-up, and is expected to increase to 11 million by 2022.
The factory is one of four key investments Nexen has made of late to strengthen its global presence. The others are the Nexen univerCITY Central Research Institute in Seoul, South Korea, the European R&D Center in Kelkheim, Germany, and the North America R&D Center in Richfield, Ohio.
Scheduled to come online later in 2019 are:
• Goodyear's $77 million "Mercury" flexible-production passenger tire plant in Colmar-Berg, Luxembourg.
The plant, built in close proximity to Goodyear's existing Luxembourg innovation center and tire proving grounds, is engineered to use "additive manufacturing technologies" to produce premium tires in small-batch quantities on-demand. Rated capacity at start-up is 500,000 units a year with about 70 full-time employees.
"Mercury addresses the increasing complexity in the tire industry as the number of vehicle models and options available to consumers continues to proliferate," Richard Kramer, Goodyear chairman CEO and president, said at the plant's groundbreaking in September 2017.
"It gives us the capability to increase our speed and flexibility to meet the growing demand for small volumes of high-margin, premium Goodyear tires and to deliver them to customers on demand, faster than ever."