Michelin debuts ‘game changer’
Michelin North America Inc. used last month’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit as a backdrop to introduce its Premier A/S passenger tire.
“This tire will change the game in the tire industry,” said Pete Selleck, Michelin North America’s chairman and president. “This is the most recent in a long history of revolutionary products from our company.”
“The Michelin Premier A/S tire represents a significant breakthrough in automotive safety,” said Scott Clark, chief operating officer of Michelin North America’s passenger and light truck tire division.
The main selling feature of the Premier A/S is the tire’s ability to retain wet traction as it wears. Clark said “the typical family drives 20,000 miles per year and make two stops per mile. This means 40,000 stops per year, and the tire is only new for the first stop.
“When tires get worn, they get less safe, and this is especially true on wet pavement.” Going further, “the reality is consumers are twice as likely to have an accident in wet, and that led us to focus on how to improve performance. We believe the Premier A/S is a fundamental game changer and sets new standards for safety.”
Available this April, the Premier A/S tire combines hidden grooves that emerge as the tire wears down, expanding rain grooves that widen over time to continue to evacuate water and a unique rubber compound for increased wet grip.
The company calls its new technology EverGrip and says it provides drivers with exceptional levels of safety even as their tires wear down and when worn. Clark said the Premier A/S stops shorter on wet roads than their leading competitors’ new tires. “With our truly revolutionary advancements in tire technology, we are able to directly address the effects of tire wear on traction and have been able to break the traditional paradigm.”
Michelin’s EverGrip technology has three main elements.
First, it has a “high-traction compound. This is a proprietary rubber compound with extreme amounts of silica and sunflower oil. The silica provides the bonding strength and adherence to keep the treads on the road for high traction in wet conditions. The sunflower oil allows the tire to grip on wet roads at lower temperatures. These ingredients are mixed through an exacting process that ensures a consistent material contacting the road both when new and worn,” says the company.
Secondly, it has “expanding rain grooves. In most tires, as the rain grooves lose depth, the amount of water they can funnel away from the tire is diminished. The Premier A/S with EverGrip has rain grooves positioned around the circumference of the tire with a special geometric shape that gets wider as the tread wears. This helps maintain the amount of water that the tire can channel away even as these rain grooves lose depth.”
Thirdly, it has “emerging grooves that are initially hidden when the tire is new. The Premier A/S has another set of grooves along the tire’s shoulder that emerge as the tire becomes worn. More than 150 hidden grooves emerge to provide additional help in channeling water away and maintaining wet traction as miles are logged.”
The Premier A/S initially will be available in 32 sizes ranging from 185/65R15 to 245/45R18 fitting a range of passenger cars including the Cadillac CTS, Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry among others. Michelin will offer a limited 60,000-mile warranty for the tire.
The Premier A/S will be replacing a majority of the Primacy line including the MXV4 family and the most recent product, Primacy MXV4. According to Clark, the tire will be priced at a 10% premium from the Primacy line and also the company’s Defender line of tires.
“We talked with consumers and they are receptive to the price,” said Clark. The company has no plans to launch the tire with price promotions, as Clark said the company wants to sell it based on its technology.
Clark noted the company is working aggressively for OE fitments for the Premier A/S and is expecting results for 2015.
Michelin has been conducting sessions with its dealers to showcase the tire’s features. Tiffane Thompson, country operations marketing manager for Michelin, said, “We are going to partner with our retailers in making sure our customers understand the tire and are trained on the features of it.” Thompson said Michelin is working on point-of-sale materials as well as on-line materials and videos for the launch. The goal is to have a visual display available to show the difference in tread design between a new and worn tire. “When someone sees it, they immediately get it,’ said Thompson.
The EverGrip technology will find its way into other Michelin tires, including a light truck version due out this fall. In fact, Clark said “the technology in this tire will be used in tires we produce around the world in the future.” The company did not rule out using its EverGrip technology in its non-Michelin brands for the future, as well.
The Michelin Premier A/S will be manufactured in North America at Michelin plants in Lexington and Greenville, S.C.; Ardmore, Okla.; and Pictou County and Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.
When comparing its tire’s performance to competitors, Michelin said it used a new P215/60VR16 Goodyear Assurance Tripletred A/S tire and a 215/60VR16 Bridgestone Turanza Serenity Plus tire. Michelin said the comparisons were based on internal wet braking test results from 40 mph and 50 mph. The Michelin Premier A/S used was a 215/60VR16 buffed to 5/32-inch of tread. ■
Michelin makes waves with new Premier A/S tire
Michelin is trying to do more than introduce its new Premier A/S tire this year. It wants to change the narrative about tires. The company clearly wants to address wet weather traction as tires wear and it is not avoiding the use of the words “safe and safety” in its message.
Key executives used phrases such as, “Our tire worn is better than their new tire” and “We’ve set a new standard for what a tire is, and what it can do,” not to mention “We believe it is the next great advancement in automotive safety.”
Michelin executives also directly compared their new tire to premium tires from the two companies that Michelin considers its main competitors, leaving no doubt about how they plan to sell the Premier A/S to the marketplace when it is available in April.
Michelin’s direct approach is best summed up by this, “The Premier A/S stops two car lengths shorter than our leading competitor when new, and one car length shorter when worn (vs. the competition’s new tire). That’s 14-feet shorter, and we all know a lot can happen in 14 feet.”
It will be interesting to see if this narrative gains traction in the market.— Greg Smith
Michelin is ‘very dependent on the success of tire dealers’
A conversation with Pete Selleck, Michelin North America president and chairman
Pete Selleck has been president and chairman of Michelin North America Inc. since October 2011. MTD spent a few moments with him during the Premier A/S launch.
About Premier A/S technology:
“This is something we’ve been talking about for 15 years. I’m aware of technology for this tire that goes back 10 years... the emerging tread feature is actually technology from truck tires we sold in Europe back in 2006... it was a drive tire with regenerating shoulders.” Selleck found it “interesting to see the technology move between product lines.”
About the market in 2014:
“The GDP last year was in the high 2s and the economy is moving forward with more pluses than minuses. The biggest threat to Michelin is really the economy and the biggest threat to the economy is the functioning of the government, and that is the problem. They have not come to terms with more than a temporary deal for the budget, which is better than nothing but it doesn’t come to the level of support ... that must happen. There is no sense of urgency and it is affecting companies and industries that are concerned about stability for the future.”
About independent tire dealers:
(Laughing) “The independent tire dealer is always dying. Through the years, independent dealers have always found a way to survive.”
Selleck went on to say Michelin has no company-owned distribution and “we are very dependent on the success of tire dealers.”
About Chinese tire imports:
“The top brands are not terribly affected but the middle brands are. Some of the tires from Asia are technologically reasonable. In Europe, tire grading has served to block certain tires, not from a price point, but from a technological point. We’re seeing truck tires (from China) that have plateaued (in quality).”