How I got into distributing Chinese tires
To answer this question I would like to start by saying that most of my life I have lived in Vladivostok, Russia and worked in the tire industry. Being so close to China, Japan and South Korea geographically, I was able to closely follow the development of Asian products.
My hometown is marked with a red pin in the image below.
In early 90s we started working with American tire brands but quickly switched to Japanese and South Korean manufactures in mid 90s. We didn’t do any business with Chinese factories at that time as I simply wasn’t convinced in their quality. As a business owner, I did not want to invest in a product that I didn’t personally trust. For over a decade I was monitoring Chinese tire industry, watched it develop, did a lot of research and kept visiting their factories every other year.
During my visits in late 90s I have seen some mind boggling practices. For example, tires getting completely deformed to fit one into another. Similar to the video below, but done manually. This way you can fit a lot more tires in a container and save money on transportation. Such technique results in cord breakage and makes the tire unsafe. This was completely unacceptable to us and we kept looking.
Finally, I learnt the best tire manufacturers in China are government controlled. In 2008 we placed our first order with one of those factories. We received quite a bit of interest but also scepticism from our customers. The price was so attractive that those Chinese tires were given a shot. After the first winter we received a ton of positive feedback! We confirmed that Chinese tires can compete with brand name tires at a fraction of a cost.
Here is a video compilation of typical road conditions in winter in my hometown :)
Since 2008 the quality and scale of Chinese tire industry has improved even further. ChemChina, one of government controlled factories, has recently purchased Pirelli for over 7 billion dollars! Over the years Chinese tires got so popular in Russia, that Russian tire manufacturers could not complete and lobbied anti-dumping duties. In 2015 Russian government was forced to introduce additional import duty on Chinese tires to support Russian tire manufacturers. Exactly the same happened in the USA.
To sum this up, I would like to say there are still sub-par tires from China, but there are also quality ones out there nowadays. You just need to do your research and know the market. Those who claim that all tires made in China are bad, simply follow stereotypical thinking. I am very familiar with Chinese tire market, and know what is good and what is bad, who to work with and who to avoid.
Thank you for reading! More to follow...