SIC 5014
TIRES AND TUBES



This industry category includes companies that primarily wholesale new and used tires and tubes for passenger and commercial vehicles. It also includes companies that wholesale tire and tube repair materials.

NAICS Code(s)

441320 (Tire Dealers)

421130 (Tire and Tube Wholesalers)

Industry Snapshot

Tire and tube wholesale establishments numbered 5,600 in 2003, according to Dun & Bradstreet, and employed some 47,400. This total included wholesale distributors of automobile, motorcycle, and truck tires and tubes; used tires and tubes; and tire and tube repair materials. The largest portion of players in this industry operated as merchant wholesalers, or companies who claim title to the goods they sell. Other companies were grouped as manufacturers' sales branches and offices, or as agents, brokers, and commission merchants.

Industry sales in 2003 totaled $13.6 billion in 2003, while unit shipments fell by an estimated 1.5 percent, due largely to the slumping overall economy, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), though Tire Business reported strong showings among the major industry players. The RMA estimated total unit shipments of auto and truck new and replacement tires at 4.5 million in 2003.

The outlook for 2004 was brighter, with an expected sales increase of 3 percent, attributed to regenerated activity in commercial trucking, increased light vehicle production, and a recovering economy. Meanwhile, the high volume of car sales in the late 1990s was expected to help keep tire distributors in good stead through the mid-2000s. Moreover, the RMA predicted that level of growth would hold steady through 2008.

Industry Leaders

The largest industry player was TBC Corporation, headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. Founded in 1956, TBC was a diversified auto parts distribution firm until 1996, when a prolonged slump encouraged the company to strip down to focus on its tire operations. By the late 1990s, TBC's products included several private label tires under such brand names as Big O, Sigma, Cordovan, Grand Spirit, Turbo-Tech, Vanderbilt, and Multi-Mile. The company also sold aftermarket automotive supplies such as tubes, batteries, custom wheels, ride-control products, filters, brakes, chassis parts, and automotive service equipment.

In addition, TBC distributed through its 570 Big O Tires outlets throughout the western United States and Canada and its 360 Tire Kingdom retail stores in the east. In December 2003 TBC acquired National Tire & Battery from Sears, taking on 225 stores in 20 states. The firm had sales of $1.11 billion in 2002, continuing a steady rise in sales since its change in focus in 1996, while maintaining a payroll of 3,220 employees.

Other leaders in this category included companies selling new and retreaded tires, such as Bandag Inc. of Muscatine, Indiana. As of 2004 Bandag served independent dealers throughout America as well as dealers in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America. Bandag employed 3,715 in 2003, while achieving revenues of $816.4 million, representing annual growth of 9.3 percent. The firm served clients in the commercial and industrial sectors through its Tire Distribution Systems Inc. (TDS) subsidiary.

Based in Huntersville, North Carolina, American Tire Distributors Inc. maintained a payroll of 1,915 in 2002. That year, revenues inched upward 4.6 percent to $1.06 billion. The largest independent distributor of tires in the United States, American Tire Distributors laid claims to such industry-leading brands as Michelin, Goodyear, and Bridgestone/Firestone. The company maintained 62 distribution centers in 35 states.

Further Reading

Dun & Bradstreet. "Industry Reports." Waltham, MA: Dun & Bradstreet, 2004. Available from http://www.zapdata.com .

Lerner, Ivan. "Rubber Chemicals Remain Tied to Economy." Chemical Market Reporter, 8 December 2003.

"Tire Firms Get Earnings Boost During First Half." Tire Business, 18 August 2003.

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