8 out of 10 American-made products are preferred by the American consumers according to the consumer reports. 60% consumers are reported to pay 10% more for the goods that are domestically manufactured. Yet the Associated Press poll presents another picture. 3 out of 4 consumers were found to prefer American-made but finally purchased foreign-made item with less price. What do these contradictory reports say?
There is a constant conflict where the question of foreign-made and American-made products comes. Domestically-made items are preferred by the consumers but in the end, budgetary constraints win and they buy foreign-made items. A lot of American-made goods are not cost-effective. Do they offer enough value to justify the price? What is value?
Merriam Webster defines value as, “A fair return or equivalent in goods, services, or money for something exchanged.” Simple! You spend money and expect a fair return. If a tyre falters fast, American-made or not, it will take you nowhere. It perturbs your budget and livelihood both.
The market is full of options but the question of “which tyre is the best?” is still daunting. What should you buy? All-season or specialized? Foreign or domestic? Let’s break down this question with the fundamentals.
Where the tyre started its journey
The first gasoline motor was invented by Benz in 1888. It included pneumatic tyres on its wheels. In 1845, the pneumatic tyre was invented by Robert Thomson, a Scotsman but this tyre did not attract the consumers until John Boyd Dunlop, another Scotsman made a tyre for the tricycle of his son in 1888. Thus, the concept of an air-filled rubber tyre mounting on a wheel of metal was replaced by metal wheels. The first pneumatic tyre was made in 1905; it had increased traction because of treads. In 1913, the assembly line was invented by Henry Ford. With the industrialization of synthetic rubber by Du Pont, the American company, mass production of tyres became possible and the consumers found the age of modern tyre.
The journey of advancements in tyres went on and the radial tyre (1949) which offered an increased fuel efficiency with an equal road contact of the tread through vertical cords. In 1980, RunFlat tyre was known as rolling on the uneven and scratchy surface. In 2000, the era of environmentally-friendly Eco Tuning tyres started to match the needs of eco-friendly motors.
When you visit to buy tyres, you will come across a large variety but looking from the angle of material, they are made up of natural and synthetic rubber along with carbon black. Natural rubber is provided by Hevea Brasiliensis, the rubber tree native in South America and grown on tropical basis in Western Africa and Southeast Asia. No matter they are made in America or anywhere else in the world, their making depends on the tropical plantation of rubber trees outside USA. Synthetic rubber is taken from crude oil polymers; carbon black comprises of natural gas or crude oil blended with oxygen in a combustion process.
70 percent of the rubber of the world is consumed by tyre manufacturers and the scientists are now trying to find new alternate of rubber. Almost 93% of rubber supply comes from Asia where they are striving to preserve the rainforests. The guayule shrub can be an alternate in the time to come. It is a desert plant grown in the US and is known for less intake of water and resistance to disease.
Where tyres are designed and developed
The basic material for all tyres is the same. Tropical rubber tree and crude oil are the raw supply they have to rely on. These manufacturers belong to multiple countries but most of the tyre production is in the USA. According to the Consumer Reports in 2016, out of the 72 tested tyre types, no manufacturer was making its tyres exclusively in the US.
This graph shows the proliferation of tyre production:
The last decade has witnessed a massive push to increase American manufacturing. An increase in the cheap energy has played a key role in it as well lower labor cost. As a result, between 2009 and 2014, the Department of Commerce has reported a 45 percent increase in US manufacturing jobs.
According to the Consumer Reports, “The production balance is quite possible to shift stateside in the coming years and the reason behind is that several new tyre plants are slated for construction in the US in the future years.” The new Hankook plant in Clarksville, Tennessee is one example to quote here.
Made in the USA
Hankook, the seventh largest tyre manufacturer in the world and a South Korean company is creating thousands of new jobs in Tennessee through its new plant. 1600 jobs will be created in Tennessee while $800 million facility is 1.5 million square feet.
“To meet the US demands, we will be able to provide our motor makers, customers, and consumers with industry leading service and high quality tyres,” says Mr. Seung Hwa Suh, the Hankook CEO. The new plant shows that Hankook is ready to meet the quality and highest standards accompanying American manufacturing.
According to The Balance, “The labor standards and higher manufacturing in the United States ensure a better product, quality work environment, and safety of the employees.” There is another benefit in manufacturing in the US that the Americans can directly and personally consult with the manufacturer if they find any problem in their tyre, it minimizes the shipping time. Also, it cuts down on the shipping costs as well as providing a cheaper option for the consumers.
Hankook competes the world’s best competitors like Pirelli, Continental, and Michelin. The Hankook Dynapro ATM is rated as the best tyre made for trucks in all terrains. This All-Terrain truck tyre is popular for its high performance on and off-road both while the tread life is maintained.
The new Tennessee plant is making Hankook compete with the other manufacturers who are currently developing their tyres in America and around the world. Keeping all this in view, the question of the well-informed consumer may shift from, “Where are my tyres made” to “What are the highest quality tyres I can purchase to get the best value for the dollar I pay?”
The value of a good tyre
The poorly-made tyre is, for sure, to wear out soon. Buy an inexpensive, poorly-made or used tyre and you will find yourself back in the tyre market searching for another tyre. Buy a poorly-made, expensive tyre, and you’ll face the same music. Spend your money to buy a quality tyre and expect to see long tyre life combined with an excellent road performance.
The nutshell is to buy the tyre that is optimal with longer life and peak performance. An optimally-built tyre saves your money and increases fuel efficiency. Gas saving can be 4 to 7 percent with tyre size and design. An ideal design increases road traction and longevity.
You can have an extra amount to spend on tyre. Fine! But don’t compromise on value. Maybe you spend a little extra amount but the domestic manufacturers are striving for delivering you the maximum value in response to the amount to pay.