Automakers are leaning on tire makers to keep up with unexpectedly brisk demand. But the automakers aren't always getting the response they want.
Chrysler Group purchasing boss Dan Knott, for example, says certain tire sizes for minivans are scarce, despite his entreaties to tire makers.
While tire makers are making sure to meet their contracts, they're not necessarily jumping to boost production. They no longer are willing to use replacement-tire profits to offset losses on sales to automakers. Now they want to be sure their sales to automakers are profitable, especially as their raw-materials costs soar.
Mark Fields, Ford Motor Co.'s president of the Americas, confirmed that tire makers are meeting their obligations. But he declined to comment on a view among some automakers that tire companies are favoring higher-margin aftermarket sales over sales to automakers.
"We have contracts with the tire" manufacturers, Fields told Automotive News. As sales have rebounded with the economy, Ford and its tire suppliers are "continuing to have dialogue on how they can support us."
Those talks cover "not just what are our requirements over not just the next six months, but over the next two years," Fields said. He added that the automaker has urged its tire suppliers to "come to Ford first to have those discussions."
Mike Martini, original-equipment tire sales chief for the U.S. and Canada Consumer Tire Sales Division of Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, said, ""We absolutely are meeting our contractual demand component." But that doesn't mean Bridgestone is grabbing every opportunity for more business.