Tires

How to ride on American-made tires

Where were all the tires on the road made? (Image by Chris Castro)
Where were all the tires on the road made? Credit: Chris Castro

How to ride on American-made tires

The tire industry is a truly global business and companies based in one country may well be building their tires in another country and selling them in a third. So how do you know if your tires are as American as Uncle Sam?

The tire industry is truly global

The world tire industry today has nine dominant companies.  Four of those have their head offices in Japan: Bridgestone, Sumitomo, Yokohama and Toyo. Three are based in Europe: Michelin, Continental and Pirelli. Although plenty of manufacturing is done in America, only two companies are headquartered in the U.S. — Goodyear and Cooper Tires.

Tires are often manufactured in a different country than the company’s head offices and BFGoodrich, Cooper, Dunlop, Firestone, General, Goodyear, Michelin, and Yokohama all manufacture tires in America even though they are not all American companies. So it’s good to remember those companies are still creating U.S. jobs and helping drive the U.S. economy.

How big is the U.S. tire industry?

More than $30 billion of tires are sold in the U.S. each year. Tire manufacturing employs nearly 40,000 people and generates some $18 billion in revenue. In 2014 U.S. tire production was 680,840 units.

Research by Consumer Reports this month of 72 tires from 21 brands showed American-made tires were the most numerous but no country was a majority source of tires. The study found the (American-owned) Goodyear tires they tested were built in Canada, Chile, Germany, and the U.S. while the (French-owned) Michelin tires were made in Italy, Spain and the U.S, which goes to show just how global the tire industry really is.

This map shows the global spread of Michelin manufacturing operations. Interestingly, Michelin-owned brand BFGoodrich says it aims to manufacture tires where they will be sold and used.

While the industry is definitely global, in some good news for the U.S. industry, the Consumer Reports researchers said the production balance could soon shift stateside. Several new tire plants are slated for construction in the U.S. in the next couple of years. Yokohama has recently opened its first plant in Mississippi.

There may also be a gap in the market for tire manufacturers to exploit. The Consumer Reports testing found while 40 percent of all-season tires were made in the U.S., only one of 23 winter tires was built here.

Are U.S.-made tires better?

The Consumer Reports study showed no trend that linked performance with country of origin, even if examined by tire type. So while it might feel good to buy local, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a better product.

Ultimately though, buying tires that are at least built in the U.S. has a multiplier effect for the U.S economy and is good for homegrown jobs and economic growth.

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