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Demand for SUV tires prompts $87 million investment in Tonawanda tire plant

The demand for tires for SUVs is driving a big investment in the Sumitomo Rubber Industries plant in the Town of Tonawanda.

The company said it plans to invest $87 million in its tire plant, as it doubles production capacity to 10,000 tires per day by the end of 2019.

The plant will ramp up capacity for passenger car and light truck tires. SUV tires are in “particularly high demand in North America,” the company said.

The plant also produces tires for trucks, buses and motorcycles.

“By increasing our proportion of locally produced tires and cutting sales lead times, we aim to expand our overall tire sales in North America,” the company said in a statement.

The $87 million investment will go toward factory upgrades to increase production capacity and productivity.

“We have already begun the partial transfer of production of tires for the North American market from our group’s Thailand factory to our factory in the United States,” Sumitomo said.

The Sheridan Drive plant was formerly known as Goodyear Dunlop Tires North America. It changed its name in April, after the dissolution last fall of a joint venture between Goodyear and Japan-based Sumitomo. Sumitomo took full ownership of Goodyear Dunlop Tires North America.

The company said the dissolution of the Goodyear alliance has given Sumitomo Rubber Group “a much greater degree of freedom to conduct our business in North America.”

The Tonawanda plant, which began production in 1923, is one of the region’s largest manufacturers, with about 1,200 employees. Its hourly workers are represented by the United Steelworkers of America. The plant produces about 4.6 million tires per year.

email: mglynn@buffnews.com

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