Bridgestone Plans to Introduce New Fuel-Efficient Tyres Abroad
(Bloomberg) Bridgestone Corp. plans to sell a new fuel-efficient tyre outside Japan to lure drivers trying to cut gasoline costs. Bridgestone will sell its Ecopia line of tyres, which improve a car’s fuel economy by as much as 5%, in markets including North America and Europe following a domestic launch in April this year, Takashi Tomioka, director of Bridgestone’s tyre products strategy division, said in an interview.
Gasoline prices have jumped 27 per cent in the U.S. this year, cutting demand for new cars. Tokyo-based Bridgestone forecasts demand for replacement tyres will be unchanged and consumers will be willing to pay higher prices for fuel-efficiency. “The sales volume on these tyres is very small,” said Kunihiro Matsumoto, senior analyst at UBS AG in Tokyo. “But it’s positioned as a high-performance tyre and priced to contribute to earnings.”
The tyremaker forecasts net income will drop 50 per cent this year to 66 billion yen (345 million pounds sterling) as it pays more for raw materials. The shares have risen 2 per cent compared with a 23 per cent drop in the benchmark Nikkei index. A 15-inch Ecopia tire sells for 20,700 yen (108 pounds sterling), compared with 16,800 yen (87 pounds sterling) for the company’s B’Style tire at an Autobacs retail shop in Tokyo.
Bridgestone expects industry-wide replacement tyre sales to rise 9 per cent this year in Europe and remain little changed in North America even as U.S. car sales may decline to a 15-year low. Ecopia tyres would vie with Michelin latest Energy Saver tyre, which went on sale in Europe this past February. Neither Ecopia nor Energy Saver are currently sold in the U.S.
Ecopia tyres for trucks and buses have been sold in Japan since 2002. The tyres mix synthetic rubber and silica to reduce rolling resistance. A 5 per cent improvement in fuel economy means a truck operator who spends 10 million yen (52,000 pounds sterling) on fuel a year can save about 500,000 yen (2,600 pounds sterling), according to the company. Michelin’s Energy Saver tyres save nearly 0.2 litres of fuel per 100 kilometers, or almost 2 euros (1.58 pounds sterling) on a full tank of gasoline, the company said in February. (Tire Review/Akron)