Winds of change – Aeolus enters the pcr segment
There are probably not too many experts on Greek mythology working in the tyre industry, but most people in the business are nevertheless familiar with the name Aeolus. This particular personage was revered by the ancient Greeks as ruler of the winds; more recently, the name has been adopted by a tyre maker whose profile in Europe is growing. First established in the mid-1960s, Chinese manufacturer Aeolus Tyre Co. Ltd. is today an important company within the government-owned conglomerate ChemChina (China National Chemical Corporation). In recent months the company has also merged with another tyre maker from within the ChemChina portfolio, Yellow Sea Rubber.
In its home country, Aeolus Tyre employs around 7,000 people and operates two tyre factories. The older of the pair, in Jiaozhou (Henan Province), produces truck, agricultural and OTR tyres, in both cross-ply and radial fitments. During the past decade these tyres have gained growing acceptance and have been approved as original equipment by a major trailer manufacturer.
In the second plant, which entered operation last year, Aeolus doesn’t just produce commercial vehicle tyres using the latest technology – with the opening of its new factory the company entered the passenger car sector, and the plant holds the capacity to produce up to 13 million passenger car tyres per annum. According to Thomas Wohlgemuth, who has represented Aeolus as its West Europe manager since the start of March, the Chinese tyre maker invested significantly in both manufacturing equipment and staff when setting up the new plant; thus it features machinery typically found in the most modern European production sites and is overseen by highly-skilled engineers and technicians.
As the person responsible for the Western European replacement tyre market, Wohlgemuth’s assignment is to build this segment up, a role that involves working together with national and regional in Scandinavia, Italy (Intergomma), the UK and Ireland (Kings Road Tyres) and the Benelux and German-speaking countries (Heuver Banden).
Through first the domestic market brand Henan and then the Aeolus brand, the company initially started out in the large construction machinery tyre segment and then progressed via agricultural tyres into the truck tyre business; therefore its latest step into the passenger car tyre segment is a logical one. In the second half of 2012, Aeolus will also enter the European passenger car tyre market – and in our region the company intends to repeat what it has already achieved in China and several other global markets: Aeolus is gearing up to secure a place amongst the ‘Top 20’ global tyre makers, and is not content with its current status as a well-known commercial vehicle tyre manufacturer. The company also has ambitious goals for the passenger car tyre segment. Wohlgemuth comments that Aeolus already has employees in various parts of the world, such as Eastern Europe and North America, who are working towards this target.
Former competitor and now sister-brand Yellow Sea is already firmly established in China’s original equipment passenger car tyre market, a sector in which Aeolus also aspires to grow. That being the case, it may not be too long before Chinese-made cars will drive on European roads fitted with original equipment Aeolus tyres. The expansion of the company’s organisational structure and the appointment of marketing expert Wohlgemuth (who previously worked for Pirelli/Pneumobil and then Michelin-initiated platform Popgom) is being carried out in part with this in mind.
As would be expected, Aeolus’s entry into the passenger car tyre segment has begun with summer tyres; these have been tested on European roads and racetracks and at present the finishing touches are being carried out. However, work on a winter tyre programme is already being conducted at a well-known Northern European testing facility, and these products will follow their summer counterparts onto the European market as soon as possible. All-season tyres are also on the Aeolus to-do list.
It goes without saying that Aeolus tyres intended for the European market will bear the compulsory “E” and “S” markings, and a further Aeolus aim is to make its ambitions for the premium segment clear to see through its tyre label performance. Thomas Wohlgemuth reports that the company would like to start out positioned at the lower end of the mid-price segment and offer a level of performance that avoids the brand being lumped together in the budget segment along with the so-called “no name” brands.
“My job will be to generate more business,” states Wohlgemuth in relation to his new employer’s expectations. To achieve this he intends to develop new marketing concepts and make these available to existing and new distributors who are operating in still-developing sales channels, so that they can use these to better reach end consumers. Once this is done, it won’t just be mythology experts who are familiar with the “ruler of the winds” or commercial vehicle tyre specialists who’ve come to value Aeolus as a qualitatively respectable alternative –consumers will also discover that Aeolus has created a new passenger car brand that, it terms of quality, it stands behind with the force of a strong gale.