Today, Petlas tyres are one of the leading Turkish brands, joining the likes of Lassa tyres with their international appeal. Yet the Petlas company has a unique history, involving the turbulent situation concerning Cyprus in the mid-1970s.
So, just how did this company come to be the large brand it is today?
The historic Petlas brand logo
The Petlas Plan
The state of political and military tension on the island of Aphrodite has been in place almost since the start of the 20th century. Cyprus drifted from the hands of the British, towards unification with Greece, then experienced a civil war between Greece and Turkey. This, in 1983, lead to the proclamation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Although this Greek-Turkish conflict had been partially resolved since 1974, both sides continued to maintain a strong military presence on both sides. This lead to the Turkish airforce involved in Cyprus to struggle with supplies: specifically, there was a shortage of aircraft tyres.
The Petlas tyre factory.
As if in response to this demand, the state-owned Petlas began to take shape in the mid 1970s, tasked with meeting the needs of the Turkish Air Force. Petlas was part of a major government project - the Petrokimya petrochemical holding, abbreviated to Petkim - whose creation and subsequent five-year development plan began in the late 1960s. In 1971, the first rubber and plastics factories started to operate in Canakkale. Five years later, in the eastern Turkish province of Elazig, a plant was setup to produce Petlas tyres.
In addition to supplying the Turkish army, the factory was also tasked with meeting the needs of the country’s developing automotive industry. In 1976, Petlas made their debut on the civilian market, offering their first car tyres - initially, this was in quite small quantities. This would change within a few months.
In 1977, the company had a contract for the modernisation of production and introduction of new technologies. This was enough to convince a Japanese consortium - consisting of Yokohama, Kope Shell and Sumitomo - to enter the picture. Petlas’ factory was modernised and the Japanese investors also provided the necessary know-how and design support.
Petlas advert for winter tyres.
In 1981, Petlas began a partnership with the Barum tyre company. In addition to the technological cooperation, Petlas also benefitted from Barum’s distribution network, which enabled the company’s tyres to be exported across Europe.
Around this time, the firm still kept its manufacturing commitment to the army and, in 1981, Petlas signed a licensing agreement with Dunlop to produce aircraft tyres.
Privatization troubles during the recession
By the end of the 80s, Petlas had to contend with the economic recession that had hit Turkey. This resulted in stagnating investments that continued to hinder the business throughout the 90s.
One way out of Turkey’s economic issues, however, was to privatise industries and this is what Petlas began to do - but this was not a smooth or easy process. In 1994, the search for investors had not produced the expected or required results and the company’s factory briefly halted all production, with the possibility of slipping into receivership. Until 1997, the plant only worked at around 30-40% capacity.
Petlas also produces agricultural tyres.
At this point, the Petlas brand was eventually bought out by the Kombassan Group. However, this did not spell the end for the tyre producer’s troubles. For the next 8 years, the new owners were not able to restore the company to its former glory, due to a lack of investment and modernisation. The factory only ran at 50 per cent capacity and this limited production meant the firm could not effectively compete in the domestic tyre market against its foreign rivals.
A return to form
In 2005, the company underwent another transformation, when it was acquired by the Abdulkadir Ozcan Group. As part of this new structuring, Petlas received a final injection of nearly $50 million. Over the next 2 years, Petlas’ product range was completely overhauled, with a focus on tyres for passenger cars and light trucks. By the end of 2009, the factory had gone from 900 employees to almost 1,500. The plant, which had also been vastly modernised and expanded, returned to full capacity. In addition to producing tyres, Petlas also launched its own line of car rims and batteries.
Today, Petlas is the number one domestic brand on the Turkish market. However, they have also managed to work alongside their international trade contacts. For example, their partner within Turkey is Pirelli tyres and Petlas is the largest distributor of these Italian products within the country. Petlas’ sales network is also used by brands such as Toyo, Hankook and Maxxis.
In turn, Petlas tyres are exported across Europe and even the Middle East, the latter of which is currently the company’s largest market. Petlas has over 2,000 distribution points across the Middle East, becoming one of the leading players of this region.
The management board of the Abdulkadir Ozcan Group estimate that, in the coming years, further investments in Petlas could total as much as $170 million, with a workforce projected to increase to around 2,300 employees.
Throughout all of this, Petlas remains the only manufacturer for aircraft tyres on the Turkish market and they still supply the air force with these products. In addition, the company has also created special tyre models for land-based military vehicles, while also exporting tyres designed for use on F16 fighters.
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