Serbia expansion means more European made/sold tyres for Cooper
At present, Cooper Tire & Rubber operates eight plants in the Americas, Asia and Europe, and production from all three regions is sold on the European market. However the company believes its value proposition can be strengthened by increasing the proportion of European-made tyres sold here.
“If we’re going to focus on a value proposition of speed to market, of customer service, of fill rate, we believe we need to make a high percentage of our products for Europe in Europe,” shared Cooper Tire Europe managing director Jeff Schumaker at the Zeon CS Sport launch in mid-September. “In the previous couple of years we ramped up our imports from China, however we believe that will start to drop off as we grow our production in Serbia.”
Production capacity at the former Trayal plant in Kruševac, which Cooper officially took over in March 2012, has already grown from 1 million units last year to more than 1.5 million units in 2013 – and Cooper plans for plant capacity to exceed 2.25 million units next year.
“In 2010-2011, the percentage of European production sold in Europe was at or below 50 per cent,” added Schumaker. “However, as we decrease some of our imports from China and ramp up our plant in Serbia, we believe that about 80 to 90 per cent of what we sell in Europe will be able to be made in Europe. A key part of our overall strategy involves our factory in Serbia.”
To date, Cooper has invested more than $50 million at the Kruševac plant. “There’s been a lot of new equipment installed, a new final and master mixer, Z-calender, inner liner calender, curing presses – the whole factory is being transformed. And we’ve also doubled the size of the factory.” Product lines manufactured in Serbia include the CS2 summer tyre plus the SA2 and ST3 studless and studabble tyres.
Cooper’s European production took a blow several years back as some production at the Melksham factory in England was replaced by output from China; the Melksham workforce was cut by 20 per cent in 2010. Capacity in Melksham fell from just under 2.5 million tyres a year in 2008 to a little over 1.5 million a year in 2012, however Jeff Schumaker says this decline has now stabilised. As for America-sourced production, Schumaker commented that imports of 4×4 tyres from the US are expected to increase slightly in the coming years.