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Editor's Notebook

With Imports Growing, Isn’t it Time for Representation?

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It was with great interest that I read of Federal Tire Corp. and Kenda Rubber Industrial Co. joining ITMA in Europe. ITMA is the Imported Tire Manufacturers’ Association, which now has 21 members and is charged with representing and supporting the best interests of those firms importing tires into Europe.

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“With the sheer volume of rules and regulations affecting the industry, it is increasingly difficult for independent tire brands to survive on their own within Europe,” ITMA says on its website. “As the only trade association in Europe to exclusively represent the interests of imported tire manufacturers, ITMA helps these brands compete effectively.

“ITMA works closely with other tire industry associations, U.K. government departments and the European Union. It acts swiftly and effectively in response to any proposed regulations that are likely to impact or affect its members.”

The group’s operating objectives are quite clear-cut:

  • Provide a forum for the discussion of matters of common interest, both technical and commercial
  • Disseminate and collect information of mutual and public interest
  • Organize trade and governmental contacts beneficial to its members’ businesses
  • Act collectively in the interests of the tire industry and of the consumer
  • To seek to promote and advance the interests of a healthy and successful British tire industry
  • Through appointed representatives, play an active part in other industry bodies.

Noble goals, effective performance and a member roster that includes familiar names like Aeolus, Alliance Tire Group, Chengshan Tire, Sumitomo, Giti, Hangzhou Zhongce, Kumho, Cheng Shin/Maxxis, Nexen, Sailun, Shandong Linglong, Yokohama and others.

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All of which begs the obvious question: Why is there not a comparable group representing these companies and brands in the U.S. and Canada?

We have the Rubber Manufacturers Association, which says it “solely represents tire manufacturers that produce tires in the U.S.,” but, in fact counts two non-manufacturers (Kumho and Falken) among its 11 members. And 10 of the current RMA members are large, active importers.

The Rubber Manufacturers of Canada is a bit broader, representing “the interests of tire and other rubber manufacturers and importers of rubber goods into Canada, together with rubber recyclers and suppliers whose goods or services directly relate to our industry.” It carries 15 tire companies as members, only three of which have tire plants in Canada.

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But there is no body focused only on the growing number of imported brands and producers and importing companies. The list is long: CMA, API, Nexen, Aeolus, Alliance Tire Group, Nokian, Apollo/Vredestein, Maxxis, Sailun, Giti, Shandong Linglong, Wanli, Sumitomo, JK/Tornel, Federal, Kenda, Greenball, Duro, Hercules, MRF, Petlas, Omni-United, Vee, Zafco and many more.

It would be quite a club, wouldn’t it? Oh, and don’t forget current RMA members Bridgestone, Toyo, Yokohama, Continental, Michelin, Pirelli, Hankook, Cooper, Falken, Goodyear and Kumho – all of which are major importers. They have their own group already, so perhaps we won’t worry about how well they are represented.

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But what about the rest? Those under-represented imported brands and producers now account for well more than 30% of the U.S. market – a figure that will continue to grow. That’s worth a voice at the table, don’t you think?

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