Kenda to open European tech center

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 Kenda Rubber Industrial Co. Ltd. is opening a technical center in Europe to support its efforts to build sales throughout the continent and explore potential OE business.

Kenda is still looking for a site for its tech center, but most likely it will be in the greater Hannover, Germany, area, according to Jimmy Yang, vice chairman of the Taipei, Taiwan-based tire maker, speaking with Tire Business at the recent Reifen tire trade show in Essen.

Kenda has hired Frits van der Steege, a South African formerly with Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. working in the field of dynamic performance target setting, to head the center, to be known as the Kenda Europe Technical Center (KETC).


As senior project engineer, Mr. van der Steege will build a team that will work in close collaboration with engineers at Kenda’s technical center in Akron and main R&D center in Taiwan.

Mr. van der Steege will report to Tom Williams, hired by Kenda in 2014to build a global R&D network.

Kenda opened its U.S. technical center last year in Green, Ohio, and is ramping up activities at that 50,000-sq.-ft. site near the Canton-Akron Airport. The facility opened with 18 technicians, but the center could house up to 60 or 70 in two to three years, according to Mr. Williams, vice president of engineering.


Mr. Yang said having a tech center in Europe is essential to Kenda’s building a “sustainable, stable” market presence. The company rolled out three European-dedicated products at the recent Reifen trade fair in Essen — the Emera A1 (KR41) summer performance tire, Wintergen 2 (KR501) passenger winter tire and Komendo Winter (KR500) winter tire for light commercial vehicles and minibuses.

In a communique distributed at Reifen, Mr. Yang said Kenda used proving grounds in Finland, Spain and the United Kingdom in developing these new lines.

Kenda stepped up its involvement in Europe three years, establishing Kenda Rubber Industrial Co. Europe G.m.b.H. in Übersee-Feldwies, Germany, near Munich, to oversee its European sales efforts. Michael Andre heads that office as marketing and sales manager for Europe.

The company earlier this year expanded its European sales network by collaborating with two family-owned retailers — Theocarakis S.A. of Greece and MPSA Groupe MASSA of France — to shore up its presence southern Europe.