Apollo’s new plant in Gyöngyöshalász, Hungary could become a significant landmark for tire manufacturing in Europe, according to Francesco Gori, strategy advisor, Apollo Tyres – and a former boss of Pirelli.
Speaking at this year’s Future Tire Conference in Essen, Gori said the Indian tire maker had “decided to go big” in Hungary: investing around €450 million in the plant for the production of passenger car and truck & bus radial tires.
The site, located about 100 km from Budapest, offers Apollo the advantages of low energy costs and labour costs, along with access to the European tire market, he said.
The Hungarian site, added Gori, has the “potential scalability to be one of the largest [tire] factories in Europe”: moving up from an initial 5.5 million to a potential 20 million tires on the car side and a “couple of million” units of tires on the truck side.
“So this is a very important expansion plan, which depends more on the competitive framework in Europe, than demand,” he said. “Because demand, we see, is there to grow in Europe, and the region is still a good export base, especially for ‘green‘ products.”
There is, he added, an “intensive focus on automation where it counts” at the plant, as well as a keen awareness of the importance of skilled labour.
“There is a mix of [skills and capabilities] in this factory because the name of the game is flexibility in this business,” commented Apollo’s strategy advisor.
Gori went on to describe Gyöngyöshalász as “a very interesting and very competitive and modern project, with skilled people at the most important part.”
This has led to agreements with local bodies and with Hungarian universities and large-scale investment in people to prepare for future growth.
Another focus, he said, is on initiatives to improve the processes to meet the demands of the customers, both OEMs and in replacement markets in Europe and some export markets.
In conclusion, Gori said that “as a European guy, I would like to have more of these projects in Europe: whether it is by an Indian shareholding company or a Chinese company, or a European company renewing its capacity.”
Bruce Davis of Tire Business, an ERJ sister publication, contributed to this report.