<p>Global tyre major Michelin today said it was looking to stop importing truck and bus tyres into India by 2015 as it expected to become 'self-sufficient' in meeting demand in the country from its production facility being set up in Chennai.
Besides setting up manufacturing base in India, Michelin is also looking to make the country as a research and development (R&D) hub in the next 10 years.
"Importing truck tyres to India is a challenge. By 2015, we hope to be relatively self-sufficient. We expect to stop importing truck tyres in the country and meet the demand from local manufacturing by then," Michelin Vice-President, Truck and Bus Division, Pete Selleck said here on the sidelines of the 11th Chellenge Bibendum here.
He said ceasing imports would bring down supply cost for the firm significantly but declined to comment if it would bring down the product cost for consumers.
Two years ago, Michelin had announced setting up of a manufacturing unit in Chennai with an investment of Rs 4,000 crore over a seven-year period primarily to cater to the domestic demand.
The plant that is expected to start operations by next year will have initial production capacity of three lakh truck and bus tyres annually.
Asked about expansion plans ahead, Selleck said: "Capacity expansion will depend on how well radial tyre market in India grows...But on full capacity, a plant like that can produce two million tyres annually and be commercially viable".
He said the Chennai plant will cater to demand of the Indian market and not exports. "We will make tyres suited for the specific requirement of the market there".
On the product development side, asked if India had the potential to become a global R&D hub for the company, Selleck replied: "Yes. It is very likely... May be in the next ten years. India and China are the two big potential markets for having an R&D base".
Globally, Michelin has four R&D centres located in North America, Europe, Brazil and Bangkok.
Michelin has already hired six field engineers for Chennai plant and they are currently based at the company's research and development centre in Bangkok.
"These engineers are learning and developing technologies to design products to suit the market demand in India," he said.