Improving sales of big farm tires should help lift Titan International sales in the sector, which in the company’s first quarter was down about 19% compared with 2009. The slide contributed to net sales of $196.4 million compared with $232.6 million the year before.

“The first quarter started slow but has improved each month, with the big farm tire segment leading the way,” says Titan Chairman and CEO Maurice Taylor. “This segment should remain strong through the second quarter before slowing as normal in the third and picking up again in the final quarter of the year.

“Midsize and small farm product demand is still slow and we do not see any growth in that segment until 2012,” he added. Titan is developing its presence in the big ag tire segment, working with farmers last year to develop new tires and wheels for large row-crop and four-wheel drive tractors.

“We will also be releasing new grain cart tires and wheels that will not only carry greater loads with less soil compaction but also have less rolling resistance,” said Taylor. “We are doing the same for combines. To put it simply, we are moving.”

Whether Titan is also moving on plans to establish a presence in Europe remains to be seen. Last September, Titan signed a non-binding letter of intent with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. to purchase certain farm tire assets there, including the Amiens North factory of Goodyear Dunlop Tires France.

Titan bought Goodyear’s North American farm tire assets in 2005 for $100 million.

Earlier this year, Taylor emphasized to analysts that the deal would have to be right and, in part, was contingent on Goodyear Dunlop finalizing a social plan with workers due to lose their jobs at the Amiens plant when passenger car and light truck tire production is brought to an end.

In early March, Titan stockholders approved a doubling of Titan’s authorized shares of common stock. At the time, Taylor said, “Titan thanks its stockholders for this vote of confidence through the increase in authorized shares, which will allow the company additional flexibility for possible business opportunities.”