Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery

Western European manufacturers’ complaints that their products have been copied in the Far East are well reported. However, Shandong Yinbao Group is one of a select few Chinese tyre manufacturers that have suffered product piracy too.

According to international marketing manager Gavin Liu, the Shouguang-based Yinbao Group recently discovered that its growing off-the-road (OTR) product range was being copied, with the pirates making use of the company’s Goodtyre name: “We have found some faked tyres recently in the market copying the Goodtyre brand name of OTR products – which is both damaging and illegal.” Fighting back in a letter to customers, Yinbao representatives wrote: “Companies and people who undermine the interests of clients and reputation of our group will be investigated for legal responsibility according to law.”

When you consider the continuing shortage of large OTR tyres and the bold claims Yinbao makes about the quality of its products, you can understand why the manufacturer wants to protect Goodtyre’s good name. Earlier this year Yinbao told Tyres & Accessories that one particular size of its giant bias OTR tyres (4000-57) is achieving service lifetimes in excess of 4000 hours. Yinbao Group highlighted the particular example of a 4000-57 tyre the company shipped to Sishen Iron Ore Mine, South Africa last year and which is still in “good service” despite being in operation and exceeding 6000 hours to date. Another product (in size 45/65-45) has reportedly been in use for more than one year.

Yinbao Tyre Group was established in 1994 and manufactures products lines covering the TBR, OTR, TBB, AGR, industrial, sand service and carbon black segments. Despite being up and running for almost 15 years, due to the fact that company concentrated mainly on the Chinese domestic market prior to 2006, foreign customers tend to know less of Yinbao than the company’s Goodtyre brand.

Entering the giant markets

In 2007 the Yinbao factory turned over 1.6 billion yuan renminbi (over £145 million) and export sales reached US$30 million. In 2008 the company expects export only sales to grow over 50 per cent to $50 million. Leading export markets include the Middle-East, South-East Asia, India, Africa, Australia South America and Russia – all places where the Goodtyre name is already known and where Yinbao plans to make the brand “famous.”

Yinbao Group made a technological breakthrough in 2007 when the company designed its first giant radial OTR tyre – the 36.00R51, which it showed at last year’s Shanghai fair. However, despite completing the design and initial product then, the company didn’t sell a single tyre until almost a year later (September 2007) “in order to ensure safety and service time” of the new tyres. As far as quality control considerations are concerned, Yinbao Group owns a number of testing machines imported from Germany including: mileage testing, bubble testing and x-ray equipment

Looking forward, the Shandong Yinbao Tyre Group is set to embark on a programme of international expansion. The company’s product range is extensive and includes truck, agricultural and industrial tyres, as well as giant OTR tyres, for example, size 36.00 R51, plus a range of inner tubes. Products are already exported to over 50 countries, but the company, under the direction of chairman Mr Yonghua Liu, has decided that the time is right to concentrate more on developing export business.

Manufacturing is carried out at three plants in China and Shandong Yinbao has built up a network of distributors to handle sales outside China. The products are all DOT, ECE, INMETRO and SNI approved, among others. As well as adopting a policy of continuous quality improvement, the company is dedicated to extending the life of its tyres and, as an example, its website proudly mentions the fact that the company’s heavy-duty, radial truck tyres are capable of running for 200,000 kilometres.

Despite the continual increase in commodity prices, Shandong Yinbao Tyre Group pledges that it will not compromise on the quality of its raw materials, recognising that quality is vital if its export programme is to succeed. As a matter of interest, the company estimates that, since the end of 2007, rising raw material costs have added the equivalent of an extra 16.4 euros to the cost of making a tyre – and this does not take into account rises in such areas as the cost of labour, or increases in the price of energy.

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