GT Radial introduces first bead-to-bead hot cure retread in Europe
The flagship European brand of GiTi Tire, GT Radial may have been selling truck tyres into European markets for less than half a decade, but it has come a very long way in a short space of time. In one of its major markets, the UK, the company believes it now holds third place in terms of market share, saying that it now outstrips big players Hankook and Continental with upwards of 13 per cent of the country’s one million truck tyre unit sales. It believes it holds the global number four spot in the TBR segment. The latest step forwards – unveiled first at the CV Show in Birmingham and then to a wider European audience at Reifen 2012 in Essen, Germany – has been the introduction of the company’s REE Tread development, a hot cure retreading programme, with the GTR990 regional trailer pattern in size 385/65R22.5 representing GT Radial’s first commercial vehicle retread tyre. Significantly, the tyre uses the Chinese brand’s own made-in-China casings and is manufactured by “a renowned retreader located in the south-west of England”, in the company’s words.
Newly appointed marketing director Europe – Commercial Tires, Peter Foulkes told Tyres & Accessories that the move towards providing a hot cure commercial retread is “part of GT Radial’s programme as a significant player in the TBR market” during an interview about GT REE Tread at the GT Tire (UK)’s head office on the outskirts of Altrincham.
REE Tread – the acronym represents “Reliable, Economical and Environmental”, GT Radial says – was first presented at the Commercial Vehicle Show 2012. There, Foulkes said: “This is our first commercial vehicle retread tyre and we believe that it has the potential to make a real impact in the market. It offers definite cost and environmental advantages along with excellent overall performance.” Making its first European appearance at Messe Essen on the company’s large Hall Three stand, Foulkes stressed in a Reifen conference that the introduction of the retread showed that “research, development and meeting the needs of the market are paramount concerns”, factors that are exemplified by REE Tread, as well as the company’s “strategy of offering advanced products in a wide range of sizes at attractive price points with excellent service and technical back up.” He expects REE Tread “to help us increase our penetration into the European markets.”
GT Radial has supplied retreaded tyres before – as befits a “significant” truck tyre supplier – and continues to offer the previously available cold retreads mainly in major markets such as Germany and Italy, while it recently started supplying cold retreads in France too. The company works with “three-four of the biggest retreaders” in Europe’s largest economy, Foulkes says, while in Italy it works with “16-17 independent retreaders”. Around one month ago, GT Radial “had casings accepted” by Rechapage Laurent in France for cold retreading, Foulkes continues. But with “increasing interest in hot retreads”, GT Radial is already selling its new GTR990, retreaded in the UK, in both the UK and Germany. This interest, and the continued strength of demand for hot cure retreads across the continent, will lead to the expansion of GT REE Tread, and Foulkes predicts that this might extend to “more than one retreader” being involved in the programme in 2013.
A “complete service”
Foulkes also says that he sees REE Tread as a chance for GT Radial to “engage with fleets and offer a complete service”. He is candid about GT Radial’s desire to sit “within tier two”, competing against “people like Hankook”, but also that the “retread market is very new” for the company. In terms of the timing of REE Tread’s introduction – a factor that could be seen as unfortunate since it coincided almost exactly with the height of the casings shortage issue – Foulkes points to the strides made in half a decade’s worth of new truck tyre sales, which have made GT Radial a “mature product with an established dealer network”.
Additionally, the debt crisis that provides a context in which fleets are looking to lower costs and pay a non-premium price for tyres also gives an obvious reason for increased interest in retreads, as well as the diminished but still present ecological benefits. It has also been in the company’s interests to tackle traditional biases against retreading Chinese tyre casings considering the recent heights the company has scaled with its new tyres. All of these considerations made GT Radial’s choice of retreading partner significant too; Foulkes describes the attraction of the retreader as being its “proven track record in terms of quality”. The desire for proving the quality of its retread products paired well with the retreader, which used 100 of GT Radial’s tyres in its standard testing procedures. Foulkes says that “field testing on the product” is now done, though the company’s European Technical Centre at Mira was not used.
The aforementioned misfortune in attempting to get a retread product going during a casing shortage meant that producing its first REE Tread products, GT Radial “went to European markets to purchase casings”. However, given the increasing strength of GT Radial sales in Europe, Foulkes says there are “a lot of casings coming through”, with a “significant increase in new products coming through the system” – a natural effect of selling more new tyres. Collection is now one of the duties of the retreader.
GT Radial treats the sale of its GT REE Tread in very much the “same way as new tyres”, with its sales team trying to interest fleets in the increased service offering. Foulkes tells T&A that the current UK percentage price difference between the GT REE Tread and the equivalent new GT Radial tyre is around 20 per cent including casing, and around 35 per cent excluding casing.
While the introduction of the retread line has allowed GT Radial to show the quality of its new TBR products, the brand is not imposing particular expectations on the GTR990. “We don’t necessarily have a target on numbers,” Foulkes says, “we see it as a value proposition.” This chimes with the company’s overall insistence that it is a “service provider” first and foremost – an idea that is characteristic of the largest suppliers of TBR tyres to fleets in Europe. Further emphasising the continuing development of GT Radial’s TBR business, Foulkes says that it will launch its “new GT Assist programme next month”, with which it aims to “add value to the product”. Primarily a “breakdown service”, might GT Assist be a move in the direction of further fleet service provisions, which might include retreaded tyres?
Asked which key markets GT Radial was focusing on for the retread, Foulkes said that it would engage all of its key European markets eventually, which comprise the five major markets and Russia. While mention of this last market shows clearly that GT Radial is looking into the future, the company already has hot cure retreads in the UK and Germany, and Foulkes explains that “Italy is very aggressive in pushing retreads”, noting “an increased demand for hot retread” products in the country.
GT Radial also plans to expand the range in the not-too-distant future. The GTR990, currently available in one size, will be joined by a “drive axle tyre [in more than one size] and additional sizes for the trailer” retread, Foulkes reveals. In addition to the current 65 series product, Foulkes says there will soon be a 55 series model. He also suggested that GT Radial would “look at low platform trailer tyres in addition to drive axle sizes.”
The past few years have seen extraordinary growth for the GT Radial brand in the TBR segment; having only incorporated a UK truck tyre subsidiary in 2009, the brand now claims third position in the country’s truck tyre market, with above 13 per cent. Introducing a hot cure retread programme to take advantage of high demand for the product across its major markets sees it expand its product portfolio to consolidate its position as a “significant player”.