Sumitomo Rubber Industries’ Richard Smallwood, president and CEO of Sumitomo Rubber North America (SRNA), has announced his retirement. He will be succeeded by Darren Thomas, who was appointed senior vice president and chief operating officer in 2021.
Smallwood has served as president and CEO of SRNA for 16 years as well as for the Falken Tire Corporation, before it was renamed, since 2000, when he was first hired as vice president, sales and marketing. He currently serves as an executive officer for parent company Sumitomo Rubber Industries in Kobe, Japan, as well as on the board of directors for SRUSA. Outside of SRNA, he is on the board of directors for the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association, the company said.
During Smallwood’s tenure at SRNA, he has overseen a major transformation of the tire brand, growing it from its small presence in North America to one that now embraces a U.S. factory, multiple racing championships, including domination in Formula Drift, and victories in numerous arenas of motorsports, from off-road to IMSA, SRNA said.
The company said it has experienced tremendous growth under Smallwood’s leadership. SRNA has expanded its original equipment placement and fitment on leading vehicles across the automotive spectrum, repositioned a sister brand in Ohtsu tires, taken on the Dunlop motorcycle brand, built a new corporate headquarters in suburban Los Angeles, provided additional training and customer service programs for Falken retailer partners through Falken Academy and launched dozens of new tire introductions for vehicles in every category. The Falken brand has seen incredible success with its Azenis high-performance line, Wildpeak light truck and off-road lines as well as Ziex, Winterpeak and Sincera tire lines, the company said.
Darren Thomas has worked with Smallwood since 1995 when the latter first hired him, and the two have had a strong rapport since day one, according to Smallwood. Thomas has previously served in multiple sales and marketing roles at SRNA before moving into the COO role and is highly regarded for his “aggressive and analytical style,” SRNA said. Thomas will assume the president and CEO position on Jan. 1, 2022.
Upon his retirement as president and CEO, Smallwood will become chairman of the board for SRNA, advisor for SRI, and will continue to serve on the board of directors for SRUSA.
A lifelong car and motorcycle enthusiast, Smallwood will also spend time pursuing his many hobbies in his workshop and the great outdoors, the company added.