Michelin’s €450-million investment is the French tire-maker’s 21st North American factory, eight years after it originally planned it.
“I’m really excited because a few years ago, in 2008, I had to come to this country to postpone our investment because of the [global financial] crisis,” Michelin CEO Jean-Dominique Senard told ERJ’s sister publication Tire Business.
And according to Scott Clark, executive vice president and COO of Michelin North America, the new plant in León will be within a three-hour drive of 18 car maker assembly plants.
“The last time we launched a greenfield passenger tire plant in North America was over 30 years ago. So this is not something we do every day.
“This is a big deal and this is exactly the right place to be and at the right time,” said Clark during the ground-breaking ceremony on 22 Aug.
And the growth plans in Mexico are not exclusive to Michelin and Goodyear.
Just two months before Michelin, Pirelli Tyre SpA broke ground on a €176-million expansion of tire capacity at its four-year-old car and light truck tire plant in Silao, in Mexico’s Guanajuato state.
Production at the plant is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of 2017, which in addition to the upgrades on the current plant, will eventually bring up the capacity of the plant to 7.5 million tires a year by 2018.
Pirelli, too, cited Mexico’s “strategic position” as a key reason for the investment, which it said would support its NAFTA development.
And Yokohama has not ruled out Mexico as a possible location for its new plant, which it is expected to announce later this year.
“We are a late entry but, as somebody said, ‘it’s better late than later’,” said Humberto Gómez, managing director of Yokohama Tire Mexico in an interview with Tire Business in July.
The company ended 2014 with 15 full-service retail outlets in Mexico and 2015 with 56. That has grown since to 73 and “will end this year with 100,” said Gómez, who added: “We also have our first Yokohama truck centre in the state of Querétaro.”
Other supporting industries have also grown significantly in the country, with US carbon black manufacturer Sid Richardson, scouting for locations in North American country.