Bridgestone Developing Low Rubber-Content Tyres
According to a new report from Bloomberg, Bridgestone is working on technology that would radically reduce the amount of natural and synthetic rubber used in each tyre it produces – without having an impact on quality or performance. The tyre-maker hopes to have the technology, which also encompasses other tyre components, in place within ten years, effectively cutting its total rubber consumption by 50 per cent. Reducing input costs is the hot battlefield for manufacturers as they tackle fast rising oil and NR cost increases while seeing white-hot growth opportunities in South America and Asia. Recouping on those higher costs has grown more difficult because lingering poor economic conditions continue to pressure commercial and consumer customers.
In a recent interview, Bridgestone’s Masayuki Ishii, general manager of corporate communications, revealed the raw material plan, saying Bridgestone aims to “reduce the amount of all tire materials, including natural and synthetic rubber, incrementally over ten years without cutting performance,” according to Bloomberg. “It’s quite reasonable to cut the use of raw materials as they become expensive,” Ishii said according to the Bloomberg report. “Our company has the technological ability to realize that.” Company President Shoshi Arakawa wants to achieve the 50 per cent cut in less than 10 years, he said. Ishii refused other comment on his statement, Bloomberg said.
There is no end in sight for rising NR costs, analysts said. Worldwide consumption of NR will overrun available supply by 313,000 tons in 2010, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., with pricing for 2011 estimated to reach $4.40 per kilogramme from $3.60 this year, and to $4.60 per kilogramme in 2012. In addition, supply will be constrained by a lack of harvestable trees. Goldman Sachs said it does not see a supply increase coming until 2013-14, when trees planted in 2006-07 mature. Meanwhile, demand – especially from China – grows at record rates virtually everywhere except North America and Europe. Global demand for passenger and medium truck tyres is expected to increase by 20 and 50 per cent, respectively, by 2015 vs. 2009. (Tire Review)