The Rs.20, 000 crore Indian Tyre Industry, is highly raw material intensive and predominantly a Cross Ply (or Bias) tyre manufacturing industry. It produces all categories of tyres, except Snow Tyres and Aero Tyre for which there is no demand domestically. Indian tyre industry is highly concentrated wherein 10 large manufacturers account for over 95% of the total tonnage production of 11.35 lakh M.T. On an average, 55% of the production is for replacement market, followed by 29.8% sold to OEMs directly and the remaining is exported.
Over the years, tyre manufacturers have developed a vast marketing network using dealers and depots and as such all types of tyres are now easily available even in the remotest corner of the country. No doubt, international auto majors in India now roll out their vehicles using Indian manufactured tyres.
Slowdown in automotive industry and global economic in general negatively impacted the Indian tyre industry in 2009. The industry tonnage growth was only 2.19% during first nine months of FY09, compared to 7.38% growth experienced during the same period last year. Demand side was also severely affected as almost all auto manufacturers were forced to adjust their production last year. A major relief for tyre manufacturers was provided by the government by reducing the excise duty on tyres from 14% to 10% in December 2008, and further to 8% in February 2009.
Increasing Cost of Raw Materials: Ram materials primarily comprise of natural rubber, crude and steel based materials which have historically experienced volatility in prices, especially during the last few months when price of domestic natural rubber increased almost 40%. Given the fact that raw materials constitute around 70% of the cost of production, combined with the manufacturers” inability to pass on the increased cost to their customers due to intense competition, rise in prices of these materials have a huge impact on profitability.
Increasing Radialization: Unlike in the developed countries, radialization has not yet reached its dominance in India. Particularly the truck, bus and LCV segments continue to be largely a cross ply based. Despite offering higher mileage, lower fuel consumption and improved safety, radial tyres have not yet caught on primarily because of poor road conditions and high initial cost which is approximately 25% higher than bias tyres. Moreover, the two important raw materials required for producing radial tyres (Steel Tyre Cord and Polyester Tyre Cord) are not manufactured domestically. Moving towards radialization will be vital if tyre producers want to protect their share in international markets. As of 2008, radialization as a percent of total production in passenger car tyres, LCV and heavy vehicles was 95%, 12% and 3% respectively.
Off the Road Tyres: Last year saw the top manufacturers, including CEAT and JK Tyres increasing their capacity of OTR (Off the Road) tyre production. OTR tyres are customized tyres and provide relatively higher margin. Increasing the proportion of OTR in the product mix is seen as a measure to improve profitability.
Increased Dumping: Besides material price fluctuations and lack of radialization, the industry is also suffering intense competition from low priced tyres from China and other South East Asian countries. Despite being of a better quality, Indian manufactured tyres loose ground when it comes to pricing. Moreover, slowing automotive demand from developed countries has made India a lucrative market for cheap tyres, thus resulting in increased dumping of cheap tyres from China.
Retreading: Another area of concern for the tyre manufacturers is the increasing retreading, where the worn out tread of the old tyre is replaced with a new tread. Retreading costs approximately 20% of a new tyre and is therefore gaining popularity, especially in Southern part of the country. Elgi Tyres and Tread Ltd are the two major retreaders in India. Significance of such retreaders can be gauged by the fact that around 85% of the tyre demand is for replacement.
Unresolved Tax Issue: The issue of inverted tax structure, wherein the import duty on natural rubber is 20% but import duty on finished tyres is as low as 10% still remains unaddressed. Operational inefficiency and taxation issues have being denting the competitiveness of Indian tyres.
Global Expansion: Several manufacturers are now moving global and are setting up manufacturing bases overseas. After acquiring Dunlop three years ago, Apollo Tyres recently acquired Vredetein Banden in Europe. JK Tyres acquired Tornel, a Mexican company last year to penetrate into American tyre market.
Despite these challenges, according to CARE Research, while the industry may register a tonnage growth of only 4.27% in FY09, the long term prospective seems to be bright. They expect the industry to experience a CAGR of approximately 8.21% between FY08 to FY13. Automotive companies have started experiencing increasing sales and raw material prices are stabilizing which will boost tyre sales over the coming months. However, experts suggest there will be some time lag before profitability picks up as tyre manufacturers are still carrying high cost inventories.