Demand for Large Tires Increases in the North American Market
In recent years, the US automobile sales have been shifting to more SUVs, CUVs, and large vehicles such as pickup trucks. Economic stability and lower fuel prices have contributed to this trend. Driving long distances on vast land also remains the root of the American car culture.
The perceived value of a car is different depending on the person, country, or locality. Because of that, desirable design and performance characteristics and the level of satisfaction would vary, too.
The drivers of pickup trucks, SUVs, and CUVs in North America are looking for certain qualities in their tires. Toyo Tires Group is developing a process to capture those needs and deliver the products that they want quickly, using our unique design and simulation techniques and production methods.
Developing an Innovative “Aggressive Design Process”
For drivers, design is one of the important characteristics. Especially for pickup trucks, SUVs, and CUVs in the US, unique and aggressive tire design is an important criterion. A high level of customizability (wider rims and more height) is also very important.
When universal design is the mainstream, it is difficult to set valuation criteria for designing products catered to those who value individuality. We need valuation criteria for design “FAVORABILITY” which is difficult to measure.
Our company first establishes valuation criteria (verbal and visual design concept) for every product we develop based on the “3C Analysis”*. Based on these criteria, we start designing a new product. Then, the design goes through multiple changes as we incorporate ideas based on the market data and market trend provided by the marketing manager in the US. This is how we are able to design a product that meets the customers’ exact needs.
When we make a product that is so creative in design, however, it becomes difficult to balance with performance (longevity, noise control, etc.).
During the tread pattern design process, we make the tire on the computer based on the initial design. We can then perform various analysis and simulations to determine the surface contact and movement of the tire so that we can continue to fine tune the design as well as predict its performance. After this process, the product finally becomes more complete with a tread pattern that maximizes performance without compromising creativity.
We strive to meet our customers’ needs at a higher level using this kind of “Aggressive Design Process” that combines various technologies and cross-functional cooperation.
- * An analysis of marketing environment that includes customer (customers and markets), competitors, and company (Toyo Tires Group).
Tread Pattern Design Simulation
“A.T.O.M.” Delivers Precision, Quality, and Unique Design
Our proprietary production system, Advanced Tire Operation Module “A.T.O.M.” makes it possible for us to produce tires with superior precision, quality, and unique design needed for large tires. This system was implemented at Toyo Tire North America Manufacturing Inc. (TNA) in 2005. Since then, it has been implemented at more locations all over the world with further improvements.
Using “A.T.O.M.”, a thin strip of rubber is extruded onto a rotating building drum to directly form circular treads. Compared to the conventional manufacturing method where a flat rubber piece is folded and glued into a cylinder, tires made with “A.T.O.M.” do not have a large joint portion that weighs more. Therefore, “A.T.O.M.” was extremely useful in manufacturing large tires where uniformity was more difficult to achieve. This reduced uneven wear that causes shorter product life and inferior handling.
Since “A.T.O.M.” also allows us to modify sidewall thickness, we are able to produce tires with aggressive designs on sidewalls. This unique design is our strength that sets us apart.
A.T.O.M.’s molding drum (left) and sidewall design produced with A.T.O.M. (right)
Supply Structure that Caters to Customer Needs
Aerial view of TNA (top)
and TNA employees (bottom)
TNA which uses “A.T.O.M.” was our company’s first production facility outside of Japan and has been in operation since 2005. It has ramped up its production capacity four times to meet the sharply increasing demand in North American markets. At the end of 2016, TNA became the largest tire production facility in Toyo Tires Group with an annual capacity to produce 11.5 million tires (calculated for passenger car tires).
During this expansive growth, TNA’s focus has been on improving quality and customer satisfaction and the protecting the environment. TNA established its quality and environmental management systems and obtained ISO9001, ISO/TS16949, and ISO14001 certifications.
Additionally, as of the end of 2016, the number of employees has grown ten-fold since its establishment in 2004. TNA was recognized by the state of Georgia in 2009 and 2016 for creating more jobs and contributing to the continued growth of the automotive industry.
In the future, Toyo Tires Group plans to develop products locally and quickly for the North American market. This requires us to precisely understand the local needs first hand. To make this possible, we will increase the size of TNA’s R&D department by hiring more people and strengthen its design capabilities.
We are committed to enriching our society by creating excitement and surprise with our products that exceed customer expectations.