BANGKOK, Thailand—With its investment into a 65,000 square foot office and warehouse in Atlanta, Georgia, and Jim Wannamaker at the helm, Thailand’s Vee Rubber is committed to making a play at the aftermarket tire business in North America.
The focus going forward is to develop a premium tire line, a business Vee can pay proper attention to because it’s not flooded with requests from OEM builders, said Wannamaker, who left Kenda earlier this year after 14 years to take the North American sales and marketing director role for Vee. Currently, a small slice of Vee’s bike business is private label, but the majority is low-end commodity aftermarket tires sold in Europe, Canada and the U.S.
In the 1990s, Vee tires were spec’d heavily on Kent and Huffy bikes, but in recent years, the company shifted its attention toward the motorcycle and automotive brands.
One advantage Vee Rubber has is, unlike many rubber companies, it produces molds in-house, which means it doesn’t have to wait in line for mold makers each time it develops a new tread pattern.
Wannamaker has already designed 13 new tread patterns for the premium line, cleverly named after engine displacements such as V6 and V8. Vee also intends to launch a performance series and maintain the classic line.
Pricing is another advantage that should help Vee’s re-entry into the market.
“We don’t have the big marketing budget that Kenda or Cheng Shin or Maxxis does, we don’t have that added expense. Because we produce tires in Thailand we can pay less than the competition and that’s going to be a big foot in the door for us. If MSRP is $50, I can come in at $40,” Wannamaker said.
Vee plans to open six new molds at its factory this month and Wannamaker aims to introduce the tires at Eurobike and Interbike. In addition, he plans to hit the road this summer stopping at various demos and festivals, similar to his approach in successfully building the Kenda brand in the U.S.
Vee Rubber was formed in 1977 by CEO Vitorn Sukanjanapong as a manufacturer of bicycle and motorcycle tires and tubes. It’s since added products for autos, trucks and ATVs. The company—ranked 68th of the top 80 global tire manufacturers last year—owns three rubber plantations in Thailand. Its bicycle division makes up about one-third of business with an annual output of 27 million tires.