In terms of raw materials, Iran is relatively self-sufficient with respect to synthetic rubber and the petrochemical materials needed for the industry.
However, both Shabani and Emami believe that the petrochemical industry is “not there yet” to support the requirements of big international brands.
“We only produce emulsion SBR as opposed to solution SBR, and if we are to aim for European and US markets, our tire companies need to meet EU tire labelling standards for PCR and TBR tires and US Smart Way standard and updated high speed and endurance standards for TBR tires” said Emami.
Up until a while ago, the standards only looked at safety, and Iran meets them all. But when it comes to quality standards, said Emami, Iran’s petrochemical suppliers need to upgrade. “Bandar Emam Petrochemical Co. produces the SBR and designing and installing solution lines is not easy,” added Shabani.
And that’s not all: Iranian local suppliers currently produce aromatic oils, which since 2010 have been banned in Europe.
“Iran will either have to change production to non-aromatic oil e.g. naphthenic oils, which is not really possible, or to import them, which makes the end product too expensive to export,” added Shabani. “In addition to that, we have to import compound silica as we do not manufacture it and it is now a major ingredient in the tire industry.”
And Iran will have to start looking for companies to provide the tire machinery.
“The price difference between Chinese-made tire machinery and European-made tire machinery is around $1.5 per kilo of tire production – tires with Chinese machinery cost around $2.5 per kilo whereas European machinery bring up the costs to $4 per kilo,” said Emami.
Amir Sanatkar, who sources machinery for tire-makers through his Neda Engineering Group (NEG), explained that despite the Chinese having a foothold in Iran, the price is not the only determining factor.
“The Chinese have indeed had advancements but it has mostly been about copying and they hardly have developed their own technologies,” he said.
According to Sanatkar, major machinery including calendering, mixing, extrusion lines, and testing machines will still be sourced from European companies.
Sanatkar has concerns regarding the sudden turn to cutting-edge technology and producing highly advanced tires without taking the target market into consideration.