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Editor's Choice, Featured, Tyre Industry

Young Yokohama – 99 Years of brilliance

Young Yokohama copy
Posted: July 30, 2016 at 9:54 am   /   by   /   comments (0)
Yokohama Geolander wins the TRiLA Up-Sizing Tyre of the year award

Yokohama Geolander wins the TRiLA Up-Sizing Tyre of the year award

Recently as we were uploading the Tyre & Rubber Industry Leadership Acknowledgement (TRiLA) award winner’s videos on our website, we came across a wonderful & historic piece of information. Whilst accepting the award for TRiLA Up-Sizing Tyre of the Year award (Yokohama Geolander) on behalf of Yokohama India Ltd. Mr. Sanjay Chatterjee (Country Head – Yokohama India) said in his acceptance speech that next year in 2017 Yokohama Tyres will be celebrating 100 years of being in business.

A centenary year for one of the biggest tyre brands globally. On paper it seems like a long time to be in a business. One hundred years of producing technologically & aesthetically great quality products one after another is no small feat. Especially when we look at what all Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. has achieved during those 99 years, phenomenal is the only word that comes to our mind.

So, we decided to turn back the pages of history for more information on the origins of the company and, what we found was even more interesting than a Dan Brown novel & more action packed than a Quentin Tarantino movie.

Yokohama – The Guiding Principles.

Mr. Suekichi Nakagawa

                       Mr. Suekichi Nakagawa

99 years ago the first president of Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. Suekichi Nakagawa had laid out five guiding principles to ensure the greatness of his company.

  1. Production is a social service
  2. There must be a basic commitment to delivering quality products unrivaled by those of competitors
  3. Management should adhere to the principles of fairness and consideration
  4. A company should have as few employees as possible and make the best use of the productivity of machines
  5. The success or failure of a business depends on how much one is willing to study, and with how much determination, to mutually improve and grow. Accordingly, one must make a great effort

The company still proudly follows the same guiding principles if you were wondering about their success & the speed at which this success has been achieved.

Yokohama Company Profile.

Yoko Factory

The Yokohama Rubber Co, Ltd. is based out of Tokyo, Japan. The company which was founded in 1917 as a joint venture between Yokohama Cable Manufacturing & B.F. Goodrich is one the world’s leading tyre-maker. In 1969 the Yokohama Rubber co. Ltd. expanded its business to the United States as Yokohama Tyre Corporation. Branding, especially in Japan, will often use “ADVAN” instead of Yokohama which, has a strong presence in the aftermarket scene worldwide. The company has two manufacturing facilities in the United States: one in Salem, Virginia, and another in West Point, Mississippi.

Ranked in the top 10 tyre manufacturers in the world, Yokohama Rubber’s operations are mainly divided into two pic_yokohama_history03primary segments: the Tyre Group, which accounts for over 70 percent of total sales and is divided into three market categories: original equipment, replacement tyres, and tyres for export; and the Multiple Business Group, which encompasses all non-tyre business including rubber industrial and engineered products like belts, hoses, sheeting, coatings, and even some sporting goods.

The Origins.

The company first began operations in October 1917. In 1919, the Hiranuma plant was built in Hiranu, also in Yokohama. The location was perfect for the rubber Tyre plant because Yokohama was strategically located on the western part of Tokyo Bay. It was also near Tokyo City and the harbor facilities in Yokohama were advantageous in the transport of raw and finished products. Yokohama is also an industrial center in Honshu Island, home to numerous factories, shipyards and oil refineries.


Yokohama came into existence as one of a number of Japanese industrial companies that emerged as a result of the opening of Japan to the outside world in the late 19th century, Yokohama Rubber developed during the 1920s by finding openings for innovation in Japan’s growing industrial infrastructure. The company’s most successful product during this period, providing the main basis for its growth, was the cord tyre, which it began marketing in 1921. Until then, tyres used in Japan were usually made of fabric, primarily canvas. Yokohama’s Hamatown Cord, the first cord tyre sold in Japan, was three times more durable than fabric tyres and soon became popular on Japan’s roads.

That was just a start of the journey for Yokohama Tyres which would later go on to become one of the most recognizable tyre brands in the World.

The Challenges & Expansions.

s-l1600 (3)Hiranuma produced Japan’s first corded tyres, a bell-weather of things to come. Nevertheless, the Hiranuma Plant lasted only two years and a few months before being destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. The company faced myriad trials before the plant could be rebuilt.

In 1921 the company also began marketing rubber cut-edged transmission belts. The belts soon replaced leather transmission belts in a number of industries. Yokohama continued to improve on belt technology in 1929 when it produced Japan’s first V-type belt which offered improved flexibility and transmission.

Yokohama expanded quickly and steadily, following up with two more plants in Tsurumi Ward in 1929 and in Mie in 1944. In 1950, Yokohama Tyres bought the Meiji Rubber Mfg. Co., Ltd. In 1955, it was granted its first sales contract with Aeroquip Corporation, a U.S.-based company.

The expansion of the company in 1930 was a result of these early moves & the fast economy in Japan during the time meant strong demand for rubber products both for vehicles and industrial applications which played in the company’s favour. During that time Yokohama Yokohama developed balloon tyres, Tyres designed specifically to prevent heat problems, giant tyres for trucks, Y-shaped tread tyres and tyres with colored sidewalls.s-l1600 (1)

Yokohama expanded quickly and steadily, following up with two more plants in Tsurumi Ward in 1929 and in Mie in 1944. In 1950, Yokohama Tyres bought the Meiji Rubber Mfg. Co., Ltd. In 1955, it was granted its first sales contract with Aeroquip Corporation, a U.S.-based company.

However, that expansion was also hindered by the destruction of Yokohama’s Tsurumi plant (which was 10X the size of Hiranuma plant) near the end of WWII as enemy’s air strikes turned Yokohama’s Tsurumi plant to ashes
once again leaving the company without a main production site.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of war Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. set out to recover its production capacity and rebuild the corporation. After rebuilding the plant the first items produced by the company were automobile tyres manufactured at their newly built Mie & Mishima plants.

Yokohama Rubber also renewed their tie up with B.F. Goodrich post war. Regulations on rubber products were eliminated & Yokohama entered a freely competitive situation in late 1950s. By then the construction of their long-awaited Hiratsuka Factory had started & was in full swing.

Yokohama Before & after World War 2.

s-l1600 (5)The outbreak of World War II prompted Yokohama Rubber to begin producing aircraft components, an area previously unexplored and, in 1941, fuel cells, flexible pipes, and Tyres for the Japanese army and navy’s Zero and Hayabusa fighter aircraft. The strong wartime demand for these products led Yokohama, in 1944, to open a new plant at Mie to increase Tyre production for military aircraft. The desperate need for vehicle and industrial components in Japan’s shattered postwar economy prompted the opening of another new plant at Mishima in 1946. Both of these plants remained crucial to Yokohama’s production network into the early 1990s.

Like many areas of the Japanese economy, the rubber industry received a boost in the 1950s in the aftermath of the Korean War, from the U.S. Army’s demand for military components. This allowed Yokohama Rubber, which was listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 1950, to increase its involvement in the aircraft products market, in 1955 by beginning production of nylon cord aircraft Tyres and, over the next two years, aircraft fuel cells, hoses, and self-sealing couplings to meet U.S. military specifications. In 1957 the company began manufacturing and marketing Tyres for jet aircraft. Along with the expansion of aircraft components manufacturing, the company continued to develop and market new kinds of vehicle Tyres including, during the 1950s, rayon cord Tyres, Japan’s first tubeless Tyres, butyl Tyres, snow Tyres, and nylon cord Tyres, as well as developing Hamaking all-weather Tyres, a basic design widely used in the early 1990s on buses and trucks in Japan. The company also began marketing its first synthetic rubber Tyres.

Yokohama further built an extension to the Hiratsuka Factory many times and branched out into vinyl products, aerospace components, and other new businesses.

The two oil crises of the 1970s caused major turning points in the economic structure. Yokohama had started directing its efforts into research and development and highly diversified business models to cope with changes & succeeded in doing so by emphasizing energy efficiency and eco-friendly technology while producing high-performance Tyres, and also by moving into the sports business.

In the late 1980s, Yokohama built its first plant in the United States, and began their overseas business. The rest as they say was History in making.

Yokohama Globalization & Research & Development.

s-l1600 (4)In 1969, spurred by their success and the opening of new demands for Tyre use, Yokohama began their operations in the United States, naming their company the Yokohama Tyre Company. Starting in the 70s and on to the 80s, Yokohama Tyres continued to expand, building plants and starting operations not only in the U.S. but also in Australia, Canada and in Europe. In 1988, Yokohama began manufacturing Tyres for heavy trucks through a partnership with Toyo Tyre and General Tyre. The company is called GTY Tyre and is based in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. In 1989, it acquired the Mohawk Rubber Company, an American rubber manufacturer. This was an important manufacturing strategy for Yokohama since the plant provided immediate access to materials.

Given its relatively late entry into the global rubber fray, Yokohama Rubber set up an energetic expansion program encompassing both acquisitions and organic growth in the early 1990s. In 1990 alone, Yokohama bought 49 percent of a Taiwanese rubber hose maker, Shieh Chi Industrial Co.; launched its products in Portugal; signed a five-year technical agreement with another South Korean company, Bukdoo Chemical; and made moves to begin exporting radial motorcycle Tyres to Brazil. The company planned to expand from its Asian and North American strongholds into Europe by establishing factories and distribution centers throughout the continent. Increased penetration of Asian and Pacific Rim markets came with the creation of new production operations in the Philippines and Australia mid-decade. Along with this energetic geographic diversification, Yokohama continued to inject funds into its research and development program.

These extensions of Yokohama’s geographic reach and product line were made against a backdrop of continued intense competition, especially from world market leader Michelin, which initiated a price war in the early 1990s. Hoping to seriously undermine its rivals, the French company timed its price cuts to coincide with the global recession then under way. Along with many of its competitors, Yokohama suffered declining sales and profits throughout the first half of the decade.

s-l1600 (2)Although fiscal 1996) sales showed the first year-over-year increase in the decade while the net income resumed its downtrend. Company executives blamed the poor results on its U.S. subsidiary, Yokohama Tyre Corp., which suffered a “one-two punch” of high debt service and raw materials expenses. A reorganization of the American operations mid-decade aimed to boost productivity by simultaneously increasing capacity, consolidating distribution, and decreasing employment levels.

Instead of concentrating its efforts on fighting for sales in the low-margin original equipment market, its strategy for the future included a continued emphasis on research and development with a particular focus on high-margin, niche products. Yokohama came up with environment-friendly Tyre systems that were unveiled in the 30th Motor Show in Tokyo. In 1996, Yokohama built the Yokohama Rubber (Thailand) Co., Ltd. specifically to produce sealants for windshields and assemble hydraulic hoses. Another plant manufacturing windshield sealants was also built in the U.S. one year later.

In 1998, after its Mishima Plant acquired an ISO 14001 certification, Yokohama began efforts to ensure that other plants receive the same international quality standardization. By 1999, the ISO 14001 certification was received for all of Yokohama’s domestic plants.

Today, Yokohama is ranked 7th as the largest manufacturer of Tyres in the world and employs more than 15,000 employees. It continues to expand its operations worldwide and has set its focus into producing better Tyres.

A Quick Time Line of Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd.

  • 1917: On October 13, the Yokohama Rubber Co., Ltd., was established as a joint venture between Yokohama Electric Cable Manufacturing Company.
  • 1920: The Company’s first manufacturing unit started production in Hiranuma-cho, of belts, tyres. F. Goodrich the American tyre manufacturer provided support as a joint venture partner
  • 1923 : Yokohama’s Hirunama plant destroyed In the great earthquake of 1923
  • 1929: Construction of the Yokohama Plant completed in Heian-cho, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama
  • 1937: Yokohama trade name was established.
  • 1954: Japan’s first snow tyre the Yokohama Y-29 launched
  • 1955: Japan’s first tubeless tyre the Yokohama HAMA safety launched
  • 1961 : Yokohama’s corporate headquarters building constructed
  • 1968: Completed tyre test course at Hiratsuka Factory
  • 1969: Established Yokohama Tire Corporation for harnessing the US tyre market.
  • 1971 : Launched Japan’s first tubeless steel radial in the brand G.T. Steel
  • 1974: Started production of OTR tyres.
  • 1975 : Launched sales of G.T. SPECIAL SEALEX, a passenger car tire with automatic puncture-sealing function & Launched sales of Japan’s first truck/bus radial steel tires with an aramid-fiber carcass
  • 1978 : Launched tyres in the brand name ADVAN , which is till date one of the most recognized tyre sub-brands in the world
  • 1980 : Launched Aspec brand of PCR tyres
  • 1983 : Signed technology licensing agreement with Ceat Tyres of India Limited
  • 1984 Established Yokohama Tire (Canada) Inc. as Canadian tyre sales company
  • 1986 : Built the D-PARC comprehensive tyre testing ground in Ibaraki, Japan
  • 1989: High-performance passenger car tyre A008P receives technical certification from Porsche
  • 1991: Completion of an R&D integrated center (RADIC) at the Hiratsuka Factory
  • 1994 : Launched sales of a PRGR Driver DATA Wood Reverse Titanium (nickname: Black Titanium) & Launched sales of GEOLANDAR A/T tyre
  • 1996: Established Yokohama in Vietnam
  • 1998: Established Yokohama in Philippines
  • 1999: All Yokohama Rubber plants in Japan receive ISO 14001 certification
  • 2000: Issued its first environmental report
  • 2001: Established Yokohama in Hangzhou , China
  • 2003: Developed HiTES, a tyre-pressure monitoring system for truck/bus yYres
  • 2004: Established Yokohama in Thailand
  • 2005: Established Yokohama Tire Korea Co., Ltd., as a tyre sales company
  • Established Yokohama Russia L.L.C. as a tyre sales company
  • Established Yokohama Europe GmbH as a tyre marketing company in Germany
  • 2007: Established Yokohama India Pvt. Ltd.
  • 2009: Established the Tyre Test Center of Asia in Thailand
  • 2013: Launched sales of ADVAN V105 as global flagship tyre









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