Conti pioneering U-UHP approach as PCR sizes continue to expand
Continental presented its estimation that the UK car, 4×4 and van tyre market remains worth around 33 million tyres at the launch of its partnership tyre supply deal with Mercedes-Benz World, a performance demonstration facility on the historical site of the Brooklands circuit. This number is similar to 2011, though Conti noted several trends affecting the make-up of this figure in 2012, most notably the growth in part worn tyre sales, estimated to represent just under 10 per cent of the total market. Initial signs of the impact of tyre labelling, introduced as a mandatory measure in November, are minimal, with premium segment sales holding up. Conti calls any current definitive assessment too early to truly assess, however premium tyre sales have held up well. Meanwhile the quality segment has come under pressure from aggressive pricing on either side, with brands in this segment struggling to maintain share, according to Conti.
Some trends continued true to those of up to the last decade: the replacement car tyre market declined in rim sizes 13” and 14”, while 15” now represents a reduced share of 24 per cent of the car tyre market. 16” tyres make up almost 30 per cent of the market, while Conti sees continuing trends towards wider tyres with bigger rim diameters through original equipment. This UHP segment accounts for nearly a third of the passenger replacement market. Similarly, W, Y and Z speed ratings – alongside runflats – have increased market share, as V rated tyres joined S, T and H in decline for the first time. 205/55R16 V is still the dominant fitment.
The 4×4 market remains in flux, with Conti recognising a clear shift to sizes 17” and above. The increasing pool of 4×4 on-road vehicles with large alloy wheels, such as the enormously popular Range Rover Evoque is expected to help this 17+” segment to grow. Conti also revealed it has the first high volume 22” OE approval on the new Range Rover in both winter and summer variants.
Van tyres saw the 16” continuing to increase in importance, representing 65 per cent of the market, largely shaped by the Ford Transit; this has precipitated a shift from the old transit size 225/70R15 to the new size 215/75R16. Additionally 235/65R16, fitted to the Mercedes Sprinter and Iveco Daily, continues to see strong growth.
Conti is developing accordingly in car tyres for a future trend towards 19+” fitments – a segment Burkhard Wies, vice president of passenger tyre line development worldwide, calls “ultra-ultra high performance”. With 17-19’’ rims no longer reserved for the top specifications, Conti is developing 19’’ and above sizes in products such as the ContiSportContact 5P and ContiForceContact. In addition to the new Automated Indoor Braking Analyser at Contidrom, Conti has created a new applied research team in Germany, looking into areas such as grip and friction coefficient, helping the company stay at the forefront of U-UHP tyre development. Conti is also expanding into motorsport, participating in the 24hr Nurburgring race series for example, as an integrated R&D measure for luxury sports cars.
Wies explains: “Continued deep scientific understanding of friction physics and motorsport involvement will benefit U-UHP tyre development and focus on improving both longitudinal and lateral grip in all directions, without compromising rolling resistance. State-of-the-art construction developments will see an angled tyre carcass, resulting in improvements to lateral grip when needed most.”
Meanwhile Conti’s partnership with Mercedes-Benz World will see Continental supply its high performance tyres for all Mercedes-Benz vehicles used in the driving experiences both on the circuits and challenging 4×4 off-road terrain. Andrew Mallery, commercial operations director, Mercedes-Benz Cars, commented that Conti’s “strong engineering heritage and recognised expertise in tyre safety” will help to deliver great driving experiences. Peter Robb, brand manager, Continental Tyre Group, agreed: “By combining the excellence of both Continental and Mercedes-Benz World, we can offer the ultimate combination of products which incorporate high performance and a shared passion for ultimate safety.”