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Small niches are big business for Vee Rubber

Dave McMahon, Editor-in-Chief
April 17, 2013
Filed under Features, Top Stories

Thai-based company sees U.S. sales double

There’s no denying that Vee Rubber is a family-owned operation. The string of connected “Vs” in the company’s logo denotes the five brothers and sisters who all are in the business together. And, save one sister, their names all begin with “V.”

The oldest and most in charge of the five siblings, company managing director and founder Vitorn Sukanjanapong has watched his Bangkok-based business show extensive growth in the U.S. since arrival in 2008.

Sukanjanapong turned to powersports tire veteran John Leale to handle Vee Rubber’s U.S. operations, and Leale has capitalized on his background with Kenda and Carlisle. (“When he hired me, he said ‘You know what you’re doing, so go ahead and do it.’”)

When he began the business in 1977, Sukanjanapong envisioned a lifelong venture for him and his family members. Ever since, business has been booming, particularly in the U.S., where Vee Rubber has experienced sales doubling year-over-year for the past two years.

“The U.S. market is extremely important to us,” Sukanjanapong told Powersports Business. “We are exporting everywhere in the world, but if you want to be the important on the world stage, you have to come to the U.S.”

Vee Rubber’s top two markets are western Europe and its domestic accounts in Thailand. In addition to the various distributors the company has in the U.S., it also does a healthy amount of OEM work and production for other tire manufacturers. In Thailand, for example, Vee Rubber is an OEM supplier of motorcycle tires to Honda Thailand. In addition, Vee Rubber provides motorcycle tires to Yamaha Malaysia, Piaggio Italy and Honda Vietnam. GasGas and Beta are other clients.

The company operates four plants in Thailand and another in Vietnam, and employs 4,000 worldwide. The U.S. operations include a warehouse in Atlanta and offices in Virginia and California.

Other U.K.- and U.S.-based tire manufacturers turn to Vee Rubber for production as well, and supply their own branding.

As for the U.S. market, Vee Rubber is certainly diversified into the various powersports segments.

(Left) John Leale, Vee Rubber’s vice president, North America ATV & Motorcycle, and managing director Vitorn Sukanjanapong.

(Left) John Leale, Vee Rubber’s vice president, North America ATV & Motorcycle, and managing director Vitorn Sukanjanapong.

“We have a lot of niches,” Leale admits. “We have tires that nobody makes. You want a 21-inch white wall for your touring bike, you buy it from us. We do well with sport bike tires, ATV tires, off-road bike tires. Some of the volume isn’t worth it to other manufacturers, but they’re a great niche for us. It gets our name out.”

Its Tackee compound off-road tire has turned heads so much that Leale says “riders say using the tire is like cheating. We don’t sell 30,000 of them, but it all contributes to the growth.”

Vee Rubber recently released a replacement tire for the Can-Am Spyder tire, the Black Widow, and more tires for trikes will be released this year. Vee Rubber also does an outstanding business among trials riders, Leale said.

“There’s a lot of undertow because we do very well in small markets,” Leale said. “We get more bang for the buck that way. Maybe the trials rider also rides an ATV, so now he knows Vee Rubber.”

On the custom side, Vee Rubber produces 360mm, 26-inch and 30-inch tires, and white walls in sizes for all baggers.

Considering the company’s breadth in the tire market, there’s reason to believe 2013 will see continued growth.

“I believe we are going to wake up a sleeping giant in the U.S. motorcycle and ATV tire business,” Sukanjanapong said, nodding to Leale. “We don’t want to lose our record double sales every year. We’re happy with that level of growth!”

Expansion is forthcoming in Canada as Vee Rubber continues to find new markets.

“We’re still getting our brand out and letting people know who we are,” Leale said.

 

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