Goodyear has unveiled an “intelligent tyre system” at a mining exhibition in the USA. The six tyres on a 240-ton truck are fitted with a transponder which measures temperature and pressure and transmits the information every three minutes. The data can be viewed in the cab or at a remote location and, should a tyre become hot, operators can adjust routes accordingly. Goodyear expects to have 250 transponders in service this year and full commercialisation early next.
John T. Lampe, Executive Vice President of Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., has been made Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of the American company. He joined Bridgestone/Firestone in 1973 and has a wealth of international experience with the company. Lampe succeeds Masatoshi Ono (63), who has been with Bridgestone for 41 years, having spent the last ten years in the US and the last seven as CEO. He immediately announced a three-point action plan with the aim of accelerating the tyre recall, assembling a new management team and creating new methods of collecting and examining performance data. His appointment follows personal intervention in the crisis by Yoichiro Kaizaki, Chief Executive Officer of the parent company Bridgestone Corporation. Fuller details in the November issue of TYRES & ACCESSORIES.
Nokian Tyres introduced its new intelligent tyre technology system to the press in Essen. It will communicate directly with the driver’s mobile phone, sending real time data on tyre pressures without the need to install any extra equipment in the vehicle. Furthermore two new tyres that will be available next spring were presented: The “NRZi” with speed index “W” and an asymmetric and directional tread pattern is designed to meet the demands of high-performance cars. The van tyre family will get a new member with the “NRC2”, the tread profile of which will be 10 per cent wider than that of its predecessor.
During a highly emotional press conference in Tokyo, Bridgestone’s boss Kaizaki again asked Ford to shoulder more of the blame. Kaizaki again pointed out that the recall in the USA is precautionary and, to date, no technical failure has been found. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the tyres have not caused – according to a joint investigation by Firestone and Ford – the problems. Firestone has never tried to cover up the facts, said Kaizaki (67). He refused to resign and said that he would take the responsibility for re-establishing the Firestone brand. A management shake up in Nashville seems likely, as soon as the recall is over. John Lampe, Executive Vice President for Bridgestone/Firestone USA, said during the hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee that Ford should share the blame. Official data on 16,000 Explorer rollovers, related to 600 deaths, show that in only a very few cases were there problems related to tyres. Bridgestone management is annoyed that, during Nasser’s call to Sam Gibara at the end of August, the Goodyear chief said that he had no knowledge of Goodyear problems in connection with the Explorer. Goodyear supplied two million tyres for the Explorer and there have been numerous proofs and photographs showing that Explorer accidents and rollovers had occurred with Goodyear tyres.
The National Tyre Distributors Association held a press conference to reveal the results of its TyreCheck 2000 campaign. This was part of a wider European initiative to increase tyre awareness and collect data in support of a campaign to increase the legal minimum tread depth. The UK campaign lasted a week and over 37,500 tyres were checked. A depressing 10% were below the 1.6mm legal minimum and a further 17% had tread depths below 2mm, which is the level being proposed as the new legal minimum. 26% were damaged in some way and 46% incorrectly inflated. Spare tyres were also checked and 33% of these had a tread depth below 2mm. 66% were wrongly inflated. In a telephone survey of people who had recently bought tyres, 75% did not know the legal tread depth and 43% said they check their pressures regularly; a figure not borne out by the above statistics. It is planned to repeat the exercise next year, hopefully on a larger scale, and the results will be used to lobby individual governments and European authorities through Bipaver for a change in the tyre laws in Europe.
Goodyear claims that an article in the Washington Post entitled “Explorer has higher rate of tire accidents” misrepresented the role of Goodyear tyres in accidents. The article examined data from the Florida Highway Patrol used to identify potential causes of accidents and the ‘tire-related’ category consisted of ‘blow-outs and punctures’. Both of these could be caused by road hazards, argues Goodyear, which has nothing to do with the manufacture and quality of the tyre. The company also says that its own claims data show no correlation between tyre performance and accidents involving Explorers.
Recently BFGoodrich had chosen Dubai (United Arab Emirates) as the venue for the introduction of the latest 4×4 BFGoodrich tyre. The new tyre is the “All Terrain T/A” for mixed application on and off the road, a new/further development of its predecessor, “Radial All Terrain T/A” which will now be completely replaced by the new model in all sizes, with some more sizes added. This demonstrates the importance BFGoodrich attaches to the “All Terrain” tyres, a regularly updated line, which has sold well for more than 20 years. “The ‚All Terrain T/A‘, along with ‚Mud Terrain T/A‘ and ‚Long Trail T/A‘ are some of our most popular 4×4 models”, explained Matthias Utzinger, Kléber’s off-road product manager. The new “T/A” will be the most generally useful tyre in the product range, conceived for mixed applications, i.e. for light off-road work but also for the road and for drivers keen on sporty driving, without ever losing sight of its use as a “work-horse”. The forecast for Germany is approximately 100,000 new registrations for off-road cars in 1999, meaning more than 750,000 vehicles of that kind on the road in 2000, according to the tyre manufacturer’s market data, with 4×4 tyre replacement sales amounting to about 700,000. Thus the revised/new “All Terrain T/A” may well lead to BFGoodrich getting a larger slice of the cake.