Optimism and designer innovation for 2015
As we start a new year in the European tire market, the main question is, “What is going to happen in the next 12 months in this unpredictable but never dull business of ours?” Well, before I look ahead, I want to look back at what has happened in the last 12 months which will give me a fair prospectus for the future.
If I were to say it was a successful trading year then it would be with mixed aspirations as it has been extensively documented that many European countries have experienced contrasting trading periods. There is no doubt that some countries in Europe have enjoyed a modestly promising period while others have significantly suffered in terms of tire sales and profits. The UK has continued to enjoy a growing economy which obviously has been reflected across all industries including the tire and wheel market.
Taking everything into consideration, as far as Europe is concerned 2014 cannot completely be written off as a failure as there have been a number of product successes. One of the most exciting is Continental’s development in Germany of using the dandelion flower as a futuristic source for rubber. During the next 12 months it will be extremely interesting to see if the developments so far eventually lead to tires being produced from dandelion flowers.
Moving on and looking to the future, I’m sure the big questions in 2015 have to be, “What will happen in the European tire industry? and, “Will the European Union recover, which hopefully will lead to sales growth in our market?”
To be honest (and sorry to be a bore), but at this stage... nobody is really sure and only time will tell. On the other hand, there has to be a much more positive attitude when it comes to new, innovative developments that are currently in the pipeline for 2015.
In particular there are two significantly promising areas that not only arouse excitement in the tire industry but also look extremely realistic. First of all there is the very interesting development of the tire industry and the fashion world joining forces in the future in an interesting and highly unique partnership.
Recently I learned of Singapore-based tire producer Omni United (S) Pte. Ltd. , manufacturer of the Radar tire brand, linking with the universally successful Timberland clothing brand (which is a leading label in Europe) to use recycled tires in future Timberland footwear. (See MTD’s account of this in the November issue, “Tires as a lifestyle choice.”)
A specially produced compound has been used in this new tire range that is particularly suited for recycling. The process will be carried out by a selected network of tire recyclers who will collect worn Timberland tires and recycle them into crumb rubber before being further processed into sheet rubber and implemented into Timberland footwear.
When I spoke with G. S. Sareen, CEO of Omni United, he pointed out that at the moment the tires will not be available in Europe, but it is hoped that following an international trial sales period in North America the concept of tires being turned into shoes will hit the European designer shopping scene.
However, I am reliably informed that the concept of linking tires and fashion footwear has really caught the imagination of European-based tire producers, and I am confident that other equally enterprising deals will be announced during the coming 12 months.
Also, the running saga of Michelin’s long-awaited Tweel airless tires is once again being predicted to gather momentum in Europe during 2015. I have been following this development for the past few years. Many people believe the Tweel is now a step closer to having a significant impact on tomorrow’s tire industry. They feel it could eventually replace the radial pattern in many market segments — including passenger cars.
At the moment the Tweel is available in the industrial sector for use on small, front-end skid steer loaders, but the growing belief in Europe is that the day will come when people will drive cars with airless tires.
So certainly technology is booming as we enter a new trading year, and it will be interesting to see if these positive vibes are matched by a growth in sales and profits. ■
John Stone has been working within the global tire industry for the past 20 years. In 2004 he launched his own consulting company, Sapphire Media Services, which caters to business media clients around the globe. Stone also writes for tire and automotive-related publications in Europe, South Africa and Asia.
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