Flying Cars, High-Speed Winter Patterns and ‘Hobby’ Tires
Once again Europe’s annual and prestigious Geneva International Motor Show took place at the beginning of March in Geneva, Switzerland. The show has traditionally been an important promotional platform for leading “A” brand tire manufacturers to showcase their latest innovative products and progressive developments for the future.
This year was no exception, with Goodyear Dunlop, Pirelli & Cie SpA, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Groupe Michelin, Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. and Apollo Vredestein BV all exhibiting and holding news breaking press conferences during the two exclusive Press Days before the official event. With Brexit just under a month away and still no conclusion to this long-running political problem, signs of the increasing downturn in car sales across all European countries were significant, with Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo, Opel and Ford Motor Co. all absent from this year’s show.
PIRELLI: WINTER HIGH PERFORMANCE
I spoke with Matteo Battani, head of strategic marketing, about the various innovative developments at Pirelli, including its new P Zero winter tire pattern that is claimed to be the very first of its kind to incorporate the proven performance of a summer tire, and the very first electric supercars fitted with bespoke tires that have “Elect”’markings indicating they have been produced specifically for these vehicles.Matteo ex plained that the new P Zero winter pattern obviously inherits all the features of this famous Pirelli brand and also ensures s uperior safety and performance in all winter weather and road conditions.
Finally making its industry debut at the show was the Elect markings on P Zero tires that have been specially produced by Pirelli for electric cars and plug-in hybrids, which provide a number of significant advantages for eco-friendly vehicles through a series of technical characteristics. Matteo told me, “These crucial advantages include lower rolling resistance and a reduction in noise and in particular sound frequencies inside the car and from the tires when driving an electric car. Also, Elect delivers immediate grip in line with the intense demands from the transmission as electric motors produce the maximum torque available from the bottom of the rev range so tires are required that bite instantly into the road. All these new additions to our range are for worldwide release.”
MICHELIN: NEW PILOT SPORT OPTIONS
It has been a number of years since Michelin exhibited at the show, and when I spoke with Pierre Chaput, tire designer and development engineer, along with Cyrille Roget, Groupe technical and scientific communications director, they informed me that Michelin had stayed away from the event in previous years in order to reorganize its brand structure and overhaul its tire designs. Now in 2019 this recognized leading brand is back with impressive new additions to their Pilot Sport range, including the Pilot Sport 4 SUV and Pilot SportCup2. “These new tires have been specifically designed for drivers who enjoy using their car’s full driving potential, and both the Pilot Sport 4 SUV and SportCup2 patterns are implemented with technologies developed for motorsport,” said Chaput.
The Pilot Sport 4 SUV is a genuine sports tire that has been adapted for use on an SUV, with particular emphasis on control and stability at high speed and extended tire life, with Roget adding, “This tire guarantees exceptional grip compared to its market competitors through its special asymmetrical design of the tread with the outer part for dry conditions and the internal section for wet conditions. It also features a new compound mix of unique operational and innovating elastomers plus fine silica whilst the tread is ultra-reactive and adapts to road conditions through dynamic interaction between the tread pattern and the advanced tread compounds that ensures perfect management of the tire contact patch.”
The Pilot Sport Cup2 also incorporates a mix of tread compounds from Michelin’s motorsport department, and the tire has been specially manufactured for dry track conditions.
Once again these new tire ranges from Michelin are expected to become available throughout the world in due course.
YOKOHAMA: HOBBY TIRE INTRODUCTION
As a seasoned exhibitor at the Geneva Motor Show, Yokohama was using this year’s event to explain its visionary mid-term strategy, which is known as “Grand Design 2020” and consists of three main areas. I spoke with David Olivia, manager of the PCR Product Planning and Marketing Department, who explained these objectives were to help Yokohama become a global tire supplier for premium performance cars, to be known as a leading provider in the winter performance sector, and to introduce the company’s relatively new “hobby tire” range.
At the booth were a number of new tire patterns making their debut in Europe from Yokohama’s legendary Advan line, including several patterns from the brand’s increasing winter tire selection such as the BluEarth-4S AW21 all-season tire for the European passenger car market. Also being launched was the iceGuardiG60, a PCR studless pattern that offers the highest performance levels of any studless tire ever produced by Yokohama, while the all-new BluEarth Winter V905 is an exceptionally fuel efficient winter pattern for PCRs and SUVs.Yokohama was also using the show to introduce its new “hobby tire” range, which concentrates on special patterns for sports performance driving enthusiasts with race, rally, off-road and modern classic vehicles. Olivia said, “We are presenting the AdvanA052, a street legal track days tire that has an expansive size option from 14 up to 20 inches, and a further new arrival… the Advan Neova AD08RS, which meets the current European tire technical regulations with ultra-superior grip power and even greater speed control and cornering performance through an innovative, fine-tuned compound.”
When it comes to extreme mud terrain tires for SUVs and 4x4s, Yokohama has been busy with a new pattern design — the tough and rugged Geolander X-MT, which Olivia pointed out has outstanding off-road traction thanks to a seriously aggressive tread pattern and sidewall design.
“We are also introducing the all-new Geolander X-CV, an ultra-high performance SUV tire that guarantees further improved wet traction along with outstanding mileage performance, superior low levels of road noise and drive comfort, whilst for the premium crossover SUV sector, the Geolander G057 incorporates a special asymmetric tread pattern with four wide grooves for improved traction and wet braking performance,” said Olivia.
“At present most of our new tires are primarily for the European market sector but in line with Yokohama’s ambition to graduate to being a truly global brand. All our tire designs are scheduled for worldwide release in the long-term future.”
COOPER TIRE EUROPE: MOVING TOWARD GLOBAL PRESENCE
As a North American-based company, the European division of Cooper Tire considered the show as an extremely important event in the company’s ongoing strategy to build a truly global business. I chatted with Jaap Van Wessum, European sales director, and P. Glenn Arbaugh, director of global light vehicle OEM strategy and business development, with Arbaugh explaining, “This year we are here to see and understand more about how the European automotive market works in terms of new vehicles and technology, including autonomous and electric vehicles, and what this means to our business.
“We aim to push the levels of our technology and quality even higher and take a very surgical approach to who the company wants to partner with and how we intend to grow in that market. We are determined to continue growing across the globe with our products being showcased in car dealerships all over the world.”
Van Wessum then pointed out that taking center stage in the Cooper booth was the new Discoverer All-Season tire, which has been specifically developed for European roads and is currently available in a wide range of sizes for cars and SUVs. “The tire is severe weather rated and displays the trusted 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol on its sidewall and also presents superior levels of grip over a wide temperature range due to the incorporation of the latest all-season silica and resin technology.
APOLLO VREDESTEIN: NEW ASPIRE XP ON DISPLAY
Netherlands-based Apollo Vrerdestein was displaying a number of its recent products and had the prestigious Jaguar F-Pace car fitted with Vredestein Ultrac Vorti 22-inch high performance tires in the booth.
The show was the ideal stage to launch the brand’s all-new summer tire — the Apollo Aspire XP, which has incorporated the most advanced material technologies and construction to ensure a high level of safety and on-road drive comfort. Tamara Oostveen, PR and events manager for Europe, told me the Aspire XP will initially be available in Europe, but in due course will be introduced in many countries, including North America. The tire effectively increases the brand’s market coverage in the 17-, 18- and 19-inch size segment.
Oostveen said, “The Aspire XP is for both the passenger and SUV market sectors and includes stiffer outer shoulder blocks and a central lane to reduce braking distances by up to 4% whilst delivering a higher degree of steering response and accuracy.
There are no Apollo consumer tires in the U.S. at present.
GOODYEAR DUNLOP: FUTURE MOBILITY THE KEY
Chris Helsel, senior vice president and chief technical officer, announced that taking center stage in the Goodyear Dunlop booth is the “all-new” Aero concept “two-in-one” tire that has been specifically designed for both the autonomous and flying cars of the future. He said, “Future mobility requirements are now actively looking toward the skies to counteract the challenges of urban congestion, and the Aero is a mixture of advanced tire architectures and materials to create a visionary wheel to serve as a traditional tire on the road and also as propulsion system in the sky.”I also accepted an invitation to exclusively interview Carlos Cipollitti, vice president for EMEA product development at Goodyear’s Innovation Center in Luxumboug, in the booth to learn more about the company’s plans for the future in terms of tires and vehicles that will work together during the next decade and beyond. Cipollitti said, “Our department is always looking to define the best way forward for mobility and constantly testing new and perhaps unlikely materials that we can implement into tires.”
I was also interested to learn more about “Olli,” a revolutionary eight-passenger autonomous shuttle vehicle that Goodyear is currently testing in America with Local Motors Inc. and was attracting a lot of interest in the booth. Cipollitti explained the company has supplied the vehicle with a totally exclusive tire fitment with sensors that capture valuable data into the operational and maintenance needs of tires fitted to driverless vehicles. ■