Maxxis is planning to complete construction of three new technical centres in Asia and the US in the next eight months. Construction is complete on the first new centre, near Shanghai, China.
Here workers are reportedly putting the finishing touches on the six-story, 143,182-square-foot facility, which will employ 200 engineers. Plans are also underway for construction of a proving ground, expected to open in 2008.
According to Group Tyre, Maxxis is fast becoming one of the most highly regarded ‘premium budget’ brands in the UK. Chairman, John Church, commented on the development: “In the last two years, we have invested major resources in developing the Maxxis brand in the passenger car, 4 X 4 and light truck sectors, promoting its quality and value-per-mile attributes, which have clearly resonated with trade and retail customers alike. These initiatives have assisted in creating a firm foundation of distribution outlets, for the brand in the UK, and we can confirm that the initiatives will continue, as we look forward to further developing the Maxxis brand.”
The UK’s All Terrain Vehicle market sprung from almost nowhere at the beginning of the 1990s creating a lot of interest for those tyre manufacturers involved. There had always been a consistent utility ATV market but this sudden swell in popularity was due to the increase in ATV sports in America. This surge was, of course, welcome but it was also short lived when the Brits realised the costs involved in the specialist recreation – there was a recession in the mid 90s after all!
In the years since then the sector has quietly developed into a profitable niche for those involved. This happened for two main reasons; farmers found more uses for ATVs and the machinery manufacturers designed a range of new quad bikes opening up the recreational arena to a sea of ATV enthusiasts. The ATV market has been split into these two categories – utility and recreation – since that time, but now there are two new classifications emerging, street legal and racing ATV tyres.
The Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA) estimates that there were some 5,000 utility ATVs on the UK market 10 years ago. According to the AEA’s assistant economist Graham Stannard, 8,955 units were recorded in 2004, a 0.1 per cent increase on the previous year. But these statistics only refer to those machines sold into the agriculture sector. Other ATV specialists estimate that there are currently around 1,000 new ATV bikes sold per month in the UK, that’s 12,000 utility and recreational models combined per year.
Utility ATVs clearly account for the volume of sales in the segment. But Martin Sanders, general manager of Honda UK Power Equipment, suggests that this may change: “The true ATV market (off road vehicles) has been stable over the past few years with all manufacturers and importers working on introducing new CE marked models.” Many industry experts agree, and a shift in volume sales from utility to race is expected in the coming years.
The sporting scene
There are currently three British championships in the ATV arena; ACU Quad Motocross, Speedway and Enduro. ATV enthusiast and championship organiser, Tony Nash, has been involved in quad racing since the early 90s when the sport first took off. It is a relatively cheap sport to engage in at club level explains Mr Nash adding that the increase in more affordable Chinese machinery has been yet another reason why ATV racing has become so popular. As well as an increase in competitors the sport has also seen a sharp rise in spectators. Public awareness has been helped further by Sky Sport transmitting the British Motocross championship to some 30,000 viewers.
With more high profile ATV championships due to be established and new European categories shortly due to begin the sport looks like it will move from strength to strength, which is good news for the tyre manufacturers involved. Maxxis has been involved in the UK Motocross scene for the last four years and became an official sponsor for the first time this year. “It’s becoming a real spectators sport,” commented Derek McMartin, Maxxis UK, adding that the British Championships are just one part of the story. “There are competitions for men and women and it is also becoming more popular for children. There are so many regional races we can put the Maxxis name out to many parts of the country and this has a good effect on brand awareness. Those involved are much more aware of their tyre choices too, as it is a sport where the tyres really come into play and success is not just down to the power of the vehicle. Most spectators have their own bikes at home, so there’s a direct spin off in terms of tyre sales,” explains Mr McMartin. Maxxis’ list of OE fitments (almost 100% for Yamaha) also commands further loyalty in the replacement market.
According to ATV enthusiast Tony Nash Maxxis is now recognised as the manufacturer in ATV tyres, and claims the manufacturer’s tyres can be seen on the bikes of many competitors across each championship. The reason behind this he says is due to the investment the company has put into world brand awareness. At the Quad Motocross Campionship alone the manufacturer has 400m of Maxxis banners and the start tape, even though it doesn’t have sole sponsorship rights. Maxxis seems to have made the right choices when it comes to investing its money and sponsors twice British champion Justin Reid. The competitor is known and respected as an engineer as well as an ATV racing expert and spectators follow his choice of tyre. Mr Nash also explains that most ATV enthusiasts in the UK subscribe to US quad magazines which are littered with Maxxis advertising and editorial, and what’s good for the Americans…need I say more.
As a relatively new market segment the ATV tyre sector is hard to define in terms of numbers. It is estimated that the UK ATV tyre replacement market lies between 40 to 60,000 tyres, but it’s difficult to qualify specific numbers when so few companies compile statistics. Despite this lack of information everyone involved in this area will tell you that ATV tyres, in particular the recreational types, are increasing and there is potential for much growth. Further opportunities within the segment are beginning to show themselves, giving wholesalers and retailers the chance to broaden their portfolios, but there are no realistic forecasts as to their expected success. Tyres & Accessories asks UK dealers whether the ATV tyre sector has the scope – volume and longevity – to become more than just another niche?
UK wholesaler, R H Claydon has, like every other ATV specialist, noticed an increase in sales of competition ATV tyres and believes that their volume will increase in the next two to three years. However, currently the utility side provides it with its volume sales, and the company expects this to remain the case, terming it a “drip feed” segment. According to the company’s corporate business manager, Dick Anderson, R H Claydon’s existing sales are split 90:10 (utility: recreational), but he expects this to shift in the future. Whether sales of recreational ATV tyres will ever equal that of utility the manager could not estimate, but he does believe that due to the sector’s following it will continue to grow for years to come.
Mr Anderson maintains that both the volume and longevity of the recreational ATV market are certain, but what about profit? R H Claydon broke into the ATV sports sector last year and has been joined by considerably more competitors since. The recreational ATV tyre side has, until now, been dominated by a small quantity of companies but the numbers are beginning to grow. “It’s a niche market,” claims the business manager, continuing: “however the profitability has been eroded to some degree over the last few years due to the increasing number of companies present in the market.”
David Williams, ATV department manager, Fieldens, agrees that there has been a significant increase in those involved in ATV tyres. “There was a time when only ATV centres dealt with the tyres however this has changed. Now there are many more companies offering the tyres, even retail chains, and if they don’t stock the tyre they will generally offer to find it for a customer anyway.” Both managers commented that the increasing number of ATV tyre brands on the market (especially those from China) has also had an affect on profitability. Dick Anderson added: “Margins on ATV tyres are acceptable, but have decreased as the tyre’s worth has gone down.”
If the individual profit of an ATV tyre has decreased then it is obviously important that overall volume does the opposite, and that new opportunities to make money present themselves to the wholesalers and retailers involved. According to Quad magazine’s Dave Bradford quadricycles have become a “sales sensation” in Europe and are becoming a more frequent sight on UK roads. This craze has therefore increased the need for street legal tyres; e-marked ATV rubber that offers a performance similar to a passenger car tyre. Maxxis UK estimates that currently 15 per cent of ATV tyres are used on road with the remainder used in off-road conditions. MD Derek McMartin also explained that street legal tyres have become a massive opportunity in America for the company and he expects the same to happen in Europe.
Because ATV tyres have changed in terms of usage over the last five years, the technology behind them has also had to change. ATVs initially raced on turf tyres until they became so popular that ATV racing rubber was developed. As well as that run-flats have been created for the utility sector, so both wholesalers and retailers are expecting big things when it comes to future street legal tyre development.
As far as the ATV specialists are concerned there are plenty of emerging opportunities within the segment for them to get their teeth into. But what they don’t want is every other retailer and wholesaler in the market to take a bite of the cake also! As far as the existing ATV tyre companies are concerned it is a specialist market and an area for the specialist dealer only.
“It’s very much a regionally specific market, and that makes it ideally a market for specialist farm dealers, or on the sporting side specialist ATV dealers,” maintains Mr Anderson. An ATV tyre sales person needs a “sound” understanding of the market to ensure they fulfil the needs of customer, agree both R H Claydon and Fieldens, inferring that it is not an area that simply any retailer can operate in.
According to Mr Anderson, forecasting an ATV tyre stock profile also complicates matters. “With ATV tyres you have to be able to offer a full range because demand can be very varied. It’s difficult to assess the stock profile because there may be eight or nine popular sizes in the utility segment and six in racing, but each range has its own popular fitments, and you want to be able to offer them all. We (R H Claydon) bring in our ATV tyres by container so we can offer a full range, even of the less common sizes, but not every company is in a position to do that. So it’s not an area that every wholesaler and retailer could get into.”
As both the ATV utility and recreation markets develop new branches the market certainly seems to have the capacity to sustain the expected future growth. But whether these new opportunities mature into long-term profits is difficult to estimate at such an early stage. The wholesalers and retailers certainly have faith in the niche’s permanence and future volumes, just as long as it remains that, a niche.
Maxxis International UK plc has appointed Neil Gooch as Key Account Manager.
With 20 years’ experience in the field, his main responsibilities will be to develop sales in the high-speed trailer, ATV, turf, and small implement tyre markets.
Speaking about his new post Neil said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for me and I am looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead. Maxxis stands for quality and innovation. I’m thrilled to be a part of its continual development.”
Bickers plc (Felixstowe/Suffolk, England) issued new shares and formed a joint venture company with the long-term tyre supplier Cheng Shin Rubber Ind. Co. Ltd (CST). The new company will trade as “Maxxis International UK plc“ and be located at a new 3.5 acre site in Felixstowe, Britain’s biggest container port.
Duro brand tyre maker Hwa Fong Rubber Industrial has received an order from Sumitomo Rubber for 750,000 ATV tyres annually, according to reports out of Taiwan. Hwa Fong Rubber Industrial’s plant in Thailand will reportedly produce the tyres, writes Tire Review.
Hwa Fong Chairman Steven Chang said the order is a “major achievement” for the company’s ATV tyre business. Deliveries are set to begin in April. Chang said the order is so large that Hwa Fong is investing $13 million to $16 million to add capacity at the Thailand plant.
Following a £5 million investment in its Belfast location, Magowan Tyres is set to benefit from a huge expansion in the mid-range tyre market. A member of Group Tyre UK, the company will now distribute the Italian Stunner brand selling its Scudo and Torneo tread patterns.
Darryl Magowan Jr commented: “We have never had a mid market tyre range before and Stunner is an innovative quality brand – it is great news and there is enormous potential in Ireland.”
Magowan’s claims to be one of the biggest tyre retailers in Northern Ireland. Its Newton Abbey site has a 25,000 sq ft retail depot, 40,000 sq ft wholesale depot and 22 retail and commercial fitting bays. The company explains that its 100,000 sq ft storage space ensures that large stocks are held of all the major brands.
The company is the sole Irish distributor for Federal, Maxxis and Trayal and specialises in UHP, 4×4, SUV, agriculture and truck tyres in addition to mainstream volume tyres.
“One of the strengths of our operation is the Group multi brand tyre policy of carrying all lines and giving a prompt same day delivery service throughout Northern Ireland. We will also be extending our sales operation in the south and are currently finalising our plans for this,” explained Mr Magowan.
Group Tyre UK chairman John Church added: “We are delighted that Magowans has already made such an impact as a Group Tyre member. They have brought new standards of service to the franchised garage trade, retail businesses, fast-fit outlets and the independent sector and the addition of Stunner to the portfolio is going to hugely expand the middle market.”
Following year-long negotiations Maxxis International has won an OE contract to supply General Motors. A new multi-year contract specifies that Maxxis will supply its brand of light truck tyre, LT225/75R16, to a General Motors ‘vehicle programme’ in the third quarter of 2006.
The Maxxis brand was rated fifth in the Taiwan Top 10 Global Brands awards, from an initial 1,000 candidates. To make the top 10, at least 20 per cent of revenues under the name must have come from overseas and the top ten positions are decided by “brand value”, which is determined by the drawing power of the brand, calculated in accordance with criteria stipulated by New York-based branding agency Interbrand. Of the top 10 Taiwanese brands, seven were from IT companies.
Maxxis International, perhaps better known in the tyre world as Cheng Shin Rubber, is to build a new factory in Thailand to produce passenger and light truck tyres. Phase 1 of the multi-phase project will be completed in late 2004, when the factory will be producing 10,000 tyres a day, employing 1,700 staff. The site, in Rayong City, south of Bangkok, covers 72 acres. This new venture is the latest in a series of expansions for Maxxis; it is expanding its factory in mainland China, has moved to a larger distribution centre in California and expanded its US HQ in Suwanee, Georgia.
In December, Taiwanese tyre manufacturer Cheng Shin, producer of the Maxxis brand, opened a technical centre in Georgia where the company employs five people. Cheng Shin already has an R&D centre in Taiwan, employing more than 150 technical staff. The company does not plan to open other R&D centres outside Taiwan.