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Conti bringing OTR, ag tires to Americas

The OTR and farm tire markets in North America will be getting a bit more crowded this year, as Continental A.G. gears up to bring earthmover and agricultural tires to the Americas as part of the growth of the Commercial Specialty Tires business unit it launched in 2012.

Conti confirmed recently that it plans to roll out in North America this year certain SKUs of its ContiEarth radial mining tire line and introduce a range of General-brand farm tires.

At the same time, Conti has hired former Bridgestone Americas, Yokohama Tire Corp. and BKT Americas executive T. Shawn Rasey to be director, global business development, earthmover. Mr. Rasey will manage the international expansion of all of Conti’s earthmover activities, Conti said.

Continental’s plans for growth in the OTR sectors date back to late 2012, when the company disclosed it was recasting its industrial tire business unit into a Commercial Specialty Tires business, encompassing three product lines — earthmoving, materials-handling and agriculture.

That move was part of a long-term strategic review that revealed above-average growth potential in the large OTR and mining tire sectors. Michael Maertens heads up that this business unit.

Conti thus far has launched earthmover tires in its Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia/Pacific regions, and a launch for the Americas is “foreseen for this year,” the company said without disclosing details as to which lines or sizes.

On the agricultural side of the ledger, Conti said it expects to introduce a range of General-brand farm tires based on its “V-Ply” technology — a hybrid carcass design that draws on both bias-ply and radial technologies.

Radial tires for agricultural applications will follow in the years to come, Conti said.

In branching into the agricultural tire sector, Continental notes it already has a strong market position in the Americas, based on the acquisition of a rubber track business last year though its purchase in late 2014 of Veyance Technologies Inc., the former Goodyear Engineered Products business.

This business, which goes to market using the Trackman brand name, and other activities of the company’s ContiTech division “form a perfect basis for our agricultural tire business,” Continental said.

The ag tire business globally is under the direction of Thorsten Bublitz, whom Conti hired in early 2014  to become the business’ line manager. Mr. Bublitz has considerable experience in the agricultural tire field, both with Conti and Czech tire maker Ceska Gumarensks Spolecnost during a 20-year career.

In response to queries from Tire Business about the farm business, Conti said it can approach this sector in several ways, supplying components and systems for agricultural machines and infrastructure from one source, ranging from instrumentation and camera solutions, through sensors, rubber tracks and conveyor belt technology, and even in exhaust gas treatment.

“Our focus is on efficiency, environmental friendliness and conservation of resources,” the company said, “and we clearly see a strong benefit in being able to serve the customer so comprehensively.”

This approach also means that Conti is able to offer comprehensive OTR tire solutions that incorporate the ContiPressureCheck tire pressure monitoring system.

As yet Continental has not named those who will lead the OTR and/or farm tire rollouts in North America.

Conti also noted that within the Commercial Specialty Tires unit, the materials-handling business is the mature segment and one that is served in the U.S. by more than 390 service points run by independent dealers.

Continental is sourcing its various specialty tires from plants in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia; Kalutara, Sri Lanka; Otrokovice, Czech Republic; and Korbach, Germany. The company also recently struck a deal with Eurotire Inc. to have certain radial OTR tires manufactured at Eurotire’s plant in Drobeta, Romania.

Conti’s plans for the agricultural market mark a return to this sector for the Hannover-based firm. Conti exited the business in 2004 when it sold its farm tire activities to CGS Group of Czech Republic, including rights to the name and production capacity at a plant in Otrokovice, Czech Republic,  

CGS later built its own dedicated farm tire plant in Holesov, Czech Republic, and moved the business it bought from Conti to that factory. CGS/Mitas opted to phase out the Continental brand name in 2011/12 in favor of its own Mitas and Cultor brands.

It also opened a farm tire in plant in the U.S., in Charles City, Iowa, in 2012.

Sweden’s Trelleborg A.B. is in the process of buying CGS/Mitas.

The rubber tracks business covers about 200 separate specifications used in a variety of construction and agriculture applications to drive high-horsepower tractors, harvesters, grain carts, asphalt pavers and other miscellaneous applications.

Goodyear established the business in 1992 at an existing molded rubber goods plant in St. Marys, Ohio. That facility passed the 150,000 mark in rubber track production — equal to more than 3.5 million feet, or 195 million pounds, of track — last year.

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