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Prometeon COO talks with Tyres & Accessories : Tyrepress

Prometeon COO talks with Tyres & Accessories

Thursday 15th June 2017 | 0 Comments
Prometeon Tyre Group chief operation officer Murillo Fonseca
Prometeon Tyre Group chief operation officer Murillo Fonseca

New name, increased focus

As we have all heard by now, following the high profile acquisition of Pirelli by ChemChina (whose Chinese tyre manufacturing plants include respected truck and car tyre manufacturer Aeolus and well-known OTR tyremaker, Torch) what we used to refer to simply as Pirelli has split itself in two. The part focusing on car and other consumer-orientated high-performance products retains the Pirelli name, while the remaining parts of the business (which were previously known as Pirelli Industrial) are in the process of being merged with their Chinese opposite numbers, subject to approval by the relevant authorities, and folded into a new entity – Prometeon Tyre Group. Autopromotec was Prometeon’s first public outing, so Tyres & Accessories interviewed chief operating officer (COO), Murilo Fonseca, during the recent Autopromotec exhibition in Bologna to find out more about the strategy behind the moves.

The result of the prospective formation of Prometeon is that the company will become the first “pure industrial tyre company” and is provisionally positioned in fourth place in the global rankings, thanks to a production capacity of 18 million units and about 18,500 employees.

Bearing in mind the fact that the reorganisation of the two companies and the Prometeon name change are both recent developments, it makes sense to start at the beginning. So why? Why the name and branding change? And why Prometeon?

“Evolution. The evolution of the market.” comes the reply. There have been several shake-ups in the market that have prompted the decision to specifically focus on each niche. This is said to be especially the case in the fleet business and in terms of legislation. “We must continue to adapt”.

The Pirelli side brings product and development strengths, while the Chinese side brings lean manufacturing capabilities. It “all helps meet the needs of fleets and customers”.

At the same time as the name change, there has also been a branding change. While Pirelli is famous for its red and yellow colours, Prometeon’s logo (which was revealed shortly before Autopromotec) is clearly comparable, but equally clearly different. For a start, it is dark blue and grey.

While it may be obvious, choosing different colours to that of the Pirelli logo and – of course – a separate name “is about making a difference”. There are clear business reasons for this move – the ultimate plans have always been to re-float both companies on the stock markets as soon as possible – making the need for clear marketing water between the two businesses quite apparent. Regarding the colours, blue and grey were chosen for their implicit association with the business-to-business sector, blue collar workers and industry in general.

The Prometeon name


Then there’s the word “Prometeon” itself. Where does it come from and why was it chosen?

First off, Fonseca explains, it was clear early in the process that any new moniker must be a global name. Prometeon, which is adapted from Prometheus of Greek mythology, is said to speak of bringing high quality to the industrial masses. Add in Pirelli/ChemChina’s connection with Aeolus (another Greek mythology reference) and there’s plenty of scope for a connection with Aeolus:

“References to the Titans speak of freedom and development – we must bring this [“development”] to the fleets with technologies such as pressure control etc,” Fonseca explained.

Using Prometeon as a product brand itself is also under discussion, however it is not at all clear when and even if such a product will make it to the market: “These things take time. It is a journey, which must be value driven”, said Fonseca.

Cultural integration

When news of the Pirelli acquisition broke in back in 2015, it didn’t take long for industry analysts to identify cultural integration as amongst the biggest challenges. Indeed, there are few cultures that are more different that Italian and Chinese. However, this is something the company has been aware of since the beginning and has been addressing from the start as well.

Cultural intricacies aside, integrating the brands, technology and production of the two companies is challenging enough. ChemChina, for example, has 24 brands available. The good news is that this means there are a number of different brand options available across global geography. Looking specifically at the European markets, the complex brand ladder (or should we say ladders) offer the company a unique opportunity to approach multiple distribution channels at the same time. However, that is all still under discussion. What is clear, moving forward, is that the whole approach is about appealing to customers who want operational efficiencies.

When it comes to distribution, there are significant differences in approach. For example, the Chinese strategy is “go to market driven”. On the other hand, Pirelli’s historic strategy has been very much brand driven. Now the newly-merged companies report that they are working on putting the strategy “puzzle” together.

Production is another puzzle, but in some ways it is easier to manage. “We can learn a lot from the Chinese and their solutions.” In the meantime technology transfer between ChemChina’s firms led by Aeolus has already begun. One initial fruit of these technological labours is the new organisation of the wider global company’s research and development centres. During our interview Tyres & Accessories learnt that Prometeon’s agricultural tyre R&D centre will be located alongside the firm’s Brazil production. Meanwhile OTR tyre research and development will be based in China – a decision that is said to have been based on China’s access to large quarry and mining test sites the scale of which is difficult to find in other countries.

When it comes to retreading, something that must be of importance to Prometeon as the nascent company develops, Italy-based Marangoni remains a partner. Fonseca reports that this means “continuing with retreading” as you would expect and “more” quite what is meant by more is somewhat more enigmatic.

Prometeon may already be fourth in the world, despite its integration only scheduled for September, however there is already talk of further growth. Acquisitions are mentioned in connection with this, but once again it is too early for details. With this in mind, it is fair to say that there is some momentum attached to the separation of Pirelli, Prometeon and Aeolus. And as far as progress is concerned, so far, so good. As Fonseca quipped towards the end of our interview: if you think of Marco Polo, it’s not the first time Italy and China have come together!

The Pirelli AH01

The Pirelli AH01

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