Pirelli’s Ultra High Performer
It was no coincidence that Pirelli selected the world’s southern most urban extremity, Ushuaia, Argentina, to launch its new Winter Sottozero tyre. The latest addition in its Planet Zero range, the company claims that the tyre is its “most extreme ultra high performer to hit the market.”
The tyre manufacturer considers itself to be a “global leader in ultra-low UHP tyres.” And so, the launch of its new tyre, to satisfy the increasing demand for high performance driving in winter conditions, was hardly unexpected. The tyre is being marketed as “the first real dual-season winter tyre.” Its significance comes from its ability to handle severe road conditions, the company boasts: “Sottozero does, in fact, represent a new concept: to ensure the maximum level of performance and safety in all the extreme situations that winter often imposes on the roads.”
Sottozero is designed to serve from the end of October, until the beginning of April, whatever the conditions, whatever the car. This is a big statement by the Italian company, and suggests its confidence in the tyre’s future success. It even goes as far as to compare it to the most technically advanced summer tyres. However, its description as a ‘fall and winter’ tyre is somewhat contradicted by its name; as Sottozero, ‘below zero,’ brings the reference back to snow and ice. While it may have been popular in Germany this will certainly limit its appeal in markets such as the UK.
The words on everybody’s lips this year are high performance winter tyres. Pirelli is no different, and claims to have experienced a 38 per cent increase each year, in the amount of HP tyres sold. It also maintains that, over the last five years, there has been a 12 per cent increase in demand for V rated tyres; whilst sales of H index tyres have levelled out, and only rose by 10 per cent in the same period. This shows an outstanding development in the market, when winter tyres were first launched they were only available in Q and S ratings.
In light of this research, rim dimensions are a major concern of the new tyre. The company believes that this is high amongst consumers’ priorities because it means they no longer have to change down to smaller wheels in order to achieve maximum safety on ice and snow. Drivers can now utilise the same rims for good and bad weather motoring. To satisfy this demand, the new tyre range offers a portfolio of sizes that ranges from 15-19 inches, and includes the 19 inch directional-asymmetric pairing that is used as original equipment for the Lamborghini Gallardo. All sizes are available with speed ratings up to V. As well as pleasing the HP driver, the possibility to fit winter tyres to wider rims will also be welcomed by style connoisseurs, whose modern sports cars necessitate wide rims and tyres with lower shoulders.
Pirelli claims 4.5 per cent of the $75 billion total world tyre market, and is predominantly based in Europe, where 45 per cent of its business is conducted. According to the company, the total European winter passenger car tyre market has risen 89 per cent in the last 10 years; from a 13.1 per cent share of the overall tyre market in 1993, to 24.7 per cent in 2003. This equates to sales levels of 18.5 million winter tyres in Europe in1993 to 45.7 million in 2003. The market segment (snow tyres) in which Pirelli’s new tyre will be launched, amounts to over 19 million tyres in Europe alone. With a market of this size there is little doubt that a demand for the product exists.