Autosport International – is this what the tyre industry needs?
The Annual Autosport International show is without question one of the UKs most successful motor shows. What began as an off-season showcase for the motorsports industries has developed into a glittering exhibition that few involved in motorsport can afford to ignore; though both Michelin and Bridgestone did just that this year.
Here we found Dunlop, Goodyear, Pirelli, Yokohama, Avon, Hoosier, Kumho, and Silverstone represented by Sport and Service. Each taking a very focussed approach to motorsport tyres and the motorsport sector. There were some odd men out, Vredestein and Technic both had stands and from a promotional point of view one had to wonder what the relationship between their display and motorsport was. Having said that Vredestein went home happy, reporting that they had gone to the show to contact independent dealers and made plenty of contacts. The company also took home the award for Best Stand in The Aftermarket Show. The company was also first to confirm its intention to return next year for the 2005 event. “We hoped to meet independent dealers and they were there in large numbers. It’s been a great show,” said Bert Stellinga. A similar statement came from Ian Smith at Technic, Its been a very successful return to exhibitions for Technic. We have seen independent tyre dealers, previous customers who have recognised the brand name and come on to the stand to re-establish contact, plus we are going away with some very promising leads.
Technic took the opportunity of the show to display some clever blue retread tyres on a Smart car. The blue tyre concept featured tyre casings with a blue pigment silica rally-type compound, rather than the traditional carbon black. It was a move that has raised a great deal of interest and we are now considering adding coloured tyres to our range said operations director Ian Smith.
Alcoas 16-inch forged Aluminium wheels will feature on the limited edition Jeep(R) Wrangler Rubicon Tomb Raider model based on the custom Wrangler Rubicon featured in the upcoming movie, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.Chrysler Groups Jeep brand approached Alcoa to design, produce and ship product in less than three months. Says Joel Alent, Account Manager for Forged Speciality Wheels, Our ability to produce low volume speciality wheels and meet the quality and delivery needs of higher volume OEM products makes this an ideal partnership. Alcoa Wheel and Forged Products plant in Cleveland delivered. They conceived, sourced and shipped the short run of 5,000 wheels to the customer in less than three months.
At the beginning of November 2002 the Michelin Pax System will be offered as an option on the new Audi A8. This underlines the great potential of Pax technology in the areas of security and mobility. Two concept-cars at the Paris Motor Show also featured the Pax System: the Renault Ellipse and the Citroen C Airdream.
Last year Continental did not perform as well as its managers expected: unprofitable commercial tyre division, failed ContiTech sale, heavy losses in the North American tyre business unit. Then, in September there were the changes at top management level: Dr. Stephan Kessel quit, Manfred Wennemer replaced him. He announced – immediately after assuming the responsibility – some wider restructuring measures. All parts of the company are under scrutiny, and there are no holy cows, he emphasised. Following this statement we heard the announcement of closures like the factories in Traiskirchen/Austria or in Herstal/Belgium. However, there has been a commitment to the commercial tyre business and to activities in North America, although the target is clear: a return back to profitability. New high mileage truck tyres like the HSR 1 (also featured in NEUE REIFENZEITUNG) are a first step in the commercial tyre business. With an increasing marketing budget and new tyres for the North American market, Dr. Ulrich Wellen, new President and CEO at Continental Tire North America since the beginning of this year, holds out hope for a turnaround in the USA too.
For Every Season: Goodyear’s “Vector 5″/”Eagle Vector (EV-2)”
Goodyear unveiled its newest generation of all- weather tyres, the Vector 5 and the Eagle Vector (EV-2) in Luxembourg at the end of August. The new tyres deliver superior safety on dry and wet roads all-year round as well as in snowy or icy conditions. The highlight of the new SmartTRED technology featured in these innovative products is that different areas of the tyres profile, each with distinct properties, come into play, depending on the conditions of the road. The Vector 5 and Eagle Vector (EV-2) will appeal particularly to drivers who usually drive in urban areas or on the flat and who want optimum safety even in adverse weather conditions. They need a tyre that is an excellent all-round performer in the moderate and temperate driving conditions they encounter for 90% of the time they use their car. However they want added safety and peace of mind in heavy rain and when temperatures drop towards freezing or even on snow and ice. Another interesting feature of the new tyres for the cost-conscious driver is that the mileage of these latest all-weather tyres has increased by around 15 percent over previous models. The central profile blocks of the Vector contain a substantial number of 3D-BIS blades – fine incisions in the rubber, whose edges bite into the surface of the road in so-called low friction conditions. This creates a significant increase in traction and grip on wet roads as well as on snow and ice. The new Vector 5 is immediately available in 21 versions ranging from 155/70R13 to 195/50R15 with a T speed rating (up to 190 km/h). The high performance version Eagle Vector EV-2 will be available in 13 sizes ranging from 185/65R14 H (210 km/h) to 205/55R16 V (240 km/h).
The worlds most important exhibition for equipment in the building, construction, mining and quarrying industries is Bauma, which was held in the beginning of April in Munich. On 2000 stands many vehicles from this segment were exhibited – equipped with very specialised tyres. Not all the tyre manufacturers are involved in this segment, for which the abbreviation EM is common, standing for earthmover tyres. The most important producers of EM tyres are Bridgestone, Michelin, Goodyear and Dunlop who showed sections of their current programs on their own stands. Some other tyre brands were fitted on the machines featured on the stands of vehicle manufacturers, but the four above-mentioned brands dominate the market. One trend in earthmover tyres is radialisation, but cross ply tyres are still in use. Low profile tyres and low-pressure technology are the most modern developments. The specialised tyre manufacturers want to be able to equip virtually every construction and mining machine, from skid-steer and compact loaders to the biggest trucks, to provide the customers with economic solutions and optimum efficiency.
Dodge has launched its first 20-inch wheel package on the 2002 Dodge Ram. The Sport-truck models feature 20-inch Eagle touring performance tyres and 20-inch Wrangler light truck tyres. Goodyears Doug Calaman said the firms engineers had worked closely with Dodge to develop the Eagle LS P275/55R20 touring tyres for the 4x2 truck – P275/60R20 are featured on the 4x4 truck. The 20-inch wheels allow the Dodge trucks to offer the largest-in-class braking system.
Ford has announced that it will replace up to 13 million Firestone tyres fitted to Ford Explorer SUVs. This is double the number of tyres recalled last year and the cost to Ford will be around $3 billion, with the exercise taking nine months. It was this decision which precipitated the announcement from Bridgestone/Firestone that it would sever all ties with Ford; an announcement which caused Bridgestone shares in Tokyo to fall by over 9 per cent.
In a speech at the conference which ran alongside the Essen Reifen 2000 exhibition, Sir Tom Farmer, Chairman and Chief Executive of tyre retailer Kwik-Fit, announced a change to the company’s famous slogan of Our aim is 100% customer delight. This, he said, is meaningless hype – nobody is delighted when presented with a bill for tyres, or an exhaust system, however good the service and product. Today’s customer is more sophisticated than his counterpart of a decade or so ago and he (or she) expects – indeed, demands – satisfaction when purchasing goods and services. Kwik-Fit’s new attitude to the customer is to try to give him what he wants and, if anything goes wrong, to move heaven and earth to rectify it. The words delight and satisfaction will disappear from adverts, letterheadings and the like, although Sir Tom said that service and customer care will continue to be a priority for Kwik-Fit. The move comes at a time when the company is undertaking its most aggressive-ever advertising campaign, offering four 12 and 13 tyres for £65, including valve, balancing and fitting. Never before have the company’s adverts featured prices so prominently, and never before have the prices been so cheap. Sir Tom Farmer says that the move is in response to actions by competitors and it is certainly having its effect on the tyre retail market. Kwik-Fit’s own house magazine underlines the aggressive nature of the campaign, saying that, if the prices are undercut, they will be reduced even further. This is war! says the article.
There is hardly any international group, that has managed such drastic changes within such a short time, as Michelin. Not least, thanks to the world-wide success of radial tyres, François Michelin (74) was able to make the French tyre manufacturer a global player. His single-mindedness, with which he backed the product and its technical superiority, has resulted in a product- or manufacturer-driven group. It doesn’t matter therefore, if this group is No 1 or only 2 in today’s ranking of the world’s biggest tyre companies, considering that ranking can change quickly. Handing the leadership of the group over to his son Edouard (37), a process started years ago and now finished, has meant more for the company than just a change from old to young, from one generation to another. In keeping best with the group’s company philosophy and its assets, Edouard Michelin has been successful in creating and establishing his company as a market-driven business. At the end of September, Edouard Michelin made himself available to TYRES & ACCESSORIES for a detailed interview in Paris. The article featured in our November issue can be downloaded in full length as PDF file (size: 209 kbyte, Adobe Acrobat Reader required).