At one time, you could pretty much count on most tires at a dealership being made in Ohio. The Cleveland/Akron/Dayton area were the center of the tire-making universe, with companies like Goodyear, Firestone and BFGoodrich dominating the economies of those cities.
We’re in a different world now; a globally-connected world where supply chains can stretch between continents and manufacturing can happen practically anywhere. It’s been true for the automotive industry and consumer electronics for decades, and there’s no reason why the tire business should be any different.
What tires are still made in the United States?
Even this isn’t as clear-cut as you might think. While the Ohio-based manufacturers may have pulled out or cut back for various reasons (obsolete plants, labor costs, etc), foreign tire makers like Yokohama, Nitto, Michelin, Continental, Toyo and Pirelli all have plants in the United States…without any of them being truly “American” brands.
Tires from an industry giant like Goodyear might come from the U.S., or they could be made in Canada, Chile or Turkey. BFGoodrich, on the other hand, isn’t truly an American company anymore; it and Uniroyal were absorbed by Michelin 30-plus years ago. Still, a set of BFGoodrich tires might be made in the United States…or China, or Canada.
Similarly, Firestone is now part of the Bridgestone family and might be sourced from places as diverse as Vietnam, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica or right here in the U.S. Bridgestone, while a Japanese company, has manufacturing and distribution in the U.S., Hungary, Canada, Mexico and France. Unless you can read the factory code on the sidewall, you might not ever be sure where your tires were manufactured.
When it comes to premium brands, though, there’s been a lot of head-to-head testing and comparisons with the same brand/model of tires made in different countries, and the difference is negligible. It’s all the same materials, same designs, same manufacturing processes and same quality control, so it really doesn’t matter if that Bridgestone tire was made in Hungary or the United States.
Does it matter?
That’s what it comes down to. There are a lot more brands and sub-brands on the market now than there were 15 or 20 years ago, at all price points and all levels of quality. In most cases, these tires are a you-get-what-you-pay-for proposition. While there are some pretty good buys in tires from China, India, Korea, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, there are also tires that won’t give you the kind of ride quality, handling, noise level or treadwear you’d expect from a more expensive tire from a premium brand.
Instead of country of origin, what you really should be thinking about for a tire purchase are things like:
- Treadwear warranty
- Reputation (do your research with sites like Consumer Reports)
- Rolling resistance
- Whether the tires are a good fit for your vehicle
- Noise level
- Road manners and handling
Of course, if you’re driving something that’s already pretty old and has high miles, you may not want to invest in an expensive set of tires anyway and tires that have a 45k mile treadwear warranty might be a good call. Regardless, we’d suggest that you just go into your tire-buying decision like you would for any other purchase. Inform yourself, consider what you really need, do some comparison shopping and weigh your options carefully, regardless of where those tires were made.