Part one of two
There’s a movement sweeping the country. It’s an ever-increasing emphasis on environmental awareness in every aspect of our daily lives. As original equipment manufacturers feel the pressure to reduce emissions and lower fuel consumption, they are turning to tire manufacturers to help with the cause. More new car models every year are being fitted with low rolling resistance tires. OEMs and tire manufacturers can now claim many bragging rights for being “green.”
But what if a consumer doesn’t care about eco-friendliness? There’s another selling point that should get the attention of those consumers — fuel savings.
“Most consumers who purchase low rolling resistance tires are doing so to save money, particularly as gas prices continue to rise,” said Travis Roffler, director of marketing for Continental Tire the Americas LLC. “These are people who own all types of vehicles, not just owners of hybrid or electric vehicles. For this reason, Continental provides a handy, online ‘Fuel Savings Calculator’ that allows the consumer to see how much money they are saving over the life of the tire by purchasing a Continental tire with EcoPlus Technology instead of a standard competitor tire.”
Roffler said that in addition to the cost savings, there is also a significant environmental benefit. Each gallon of gas saved means up to 20 fewer pounds of CO2 emissions released into the Earth’s atmosphere. This environmental benefit helps attract consumers concerned about their environmental footprint.
So just who exactly is the consumer who buys low rolling resistance tires?
“Hybrid vehicle owners and customers who express a strong willingness to purchase environmentally friendly products,” said John Aben, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Nexen Tire America Inc. “Also, customers who want to save money on gas.”
All major tire makers have identified this demographic, and agree.
“Customers who purchase low rolling resistance tires are predominantly looking to increase gas mileage in most cases to save money,” said Rick Brennan, vice president of marketing, Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc.
“There are the obvious hybrid owners who seek out these tires, but really it is anyone looking to maximize their fuel economy,” said Julie Porter, product planner, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC. “Many consumers do not want to change their vehicle type, so this is a good option to improve the fuel efficiency of any vehicle.
“There is no one profile of a low rolling resistance tire consumer,” said Jim Davis, Goodyear brand PR manager with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. “Consumers might buy low rolling resistance tires to save money at the pump, or because the money saved over the life of the tire makes purchasing low rolling resistance tires a good value for the price paid.”
Better tires, smarter customers
But there are still more benefits that this consumer is seeking.
“Consumers who purchase low rolling resistant tires are looking for improved performance from their vehicles,” said Henry Kopacz, PR and product marketing specialist with Hankook Tire America Corp. “Whether that is improved fuel economy to help them save some money at the fuel pump, or as their own personal contribution to help lessen their vehicle’s impact on the environment, consumers who are aware of and purchase low rolling resistant tires know the positive benefits this type of tire provides.”
Part of the demand comes from better-educated consumers.
“It’s easy to state that a hybrid vehicle consumer is automatically keyed in to buying low rolling resistance tires,” said Andrew Briggs, Yokohama director of product planning. “But consumers in general are becoming more educated on the benefits of lower rolling resistance, especially given the rising cost of fuel. The buyer is becoming more pervasive across vehicle segments and driving types, and we expect that trend to continue in the future.”
Market segment or enhancement?
Many tire makers say that low rolling resistance tires are not a standalone tire market segment, but are a segment enhancement.
“Low rolling resistance is never the only criteria somebody expects from a tire and therefore it isn’t a new market segment, but an enhancement to an existing segment,” said a spokesperson at Apollo Vredestein B.V.
But according to Goodyear’s Davis, depending on the consumer motivation, there are different market segments that can be targeted.
“For example, when fuel prices are high, there is a segment of fuel strategists that look to save on fuel consumption, and the value proposition for a dedicated line can be compelling,” he explained.
As this technology continues to expand, it is appearing in more and more different types of tires.
“The segment that you see the most activity in, in regards to rolling resistance, is the broadline, or touring tire segment,” said Hankook’s Kopacz.
“Low rolling resistance is a tire feature, not a new market segment,” said Kumho’s Brennan. “The tires still have to fit a certain vehicle type and perform the way the driver expects. The low rolling resistance is another feature with a benefit we need to build into the tire.”
Brennan said that many tire makers are adding low rolling resistance to existing lines or creating new ones to fit a certain segment of the market, such as “H” rated high performance touring tires like the Kumho Ecowing KH30.
“Drivers still are looking for ride comfort, low noise, mileage and wet and dry handling, but will take rolling resistance as well if it is an additional feature,” he explained.
And it appears that development in this area will be ongoing.
“Rising fuel costs will continue to push tire makers to improve rolling resistance,” said John Wu, assistant product manager for Maxxis International.
“These tires are a technological advancement that is part of the DNA of Pirelli,” said Rafael Navarro, vice president of communications at Pirelli North America. “They offer the same performance characteristics as others while also improving fuel economy and decreasing environmental impact.”
The latest and greatest
Here is a listing of the latest fuel efficient passenger tires manufacturers have to offer.
Vredestein Quatrac Lite
The all season Vredestein Quatrac Lite is an energy-efficient addition to the Vredestein range. Compared to its predecessor, the Quatrac 3, Vredestein’s Quatrac Lite is more focused on future environmental regulations. In addition, its size range is positioned more toward the “green” market segment such as current and future hybrid and electric cars. The Quatrac Lite features the company’s Full Polymer Compound (FPC). This FPC technology provides good road traction in all conditions and a long lifespan. It is available in 14 sizes.
APOLLO VREDESTEIN B.V.
Bridgestone Ecopia EP422 and Dueler H/L 422 Ecopia
The Ecopia EP422 is an all-season tire; the Dueler H/L 422 Ecopia is an SUV, CUV and light truck tire with an all-season tread pattern.
Bridgestone says it will add 24 sizes to the Ecopia EP422 line by mid-year. That will increase the number of sizes to 29, broken out as follows: 15- to 18-inch sizes; 45- to 65-series aspect ratios. The Dueler H/L 422 Ecopia size lineup will increase from six to 19 sizes, ranging from 16 through 20 inches.
Bridgestone’s NanoPro-Tech controls the interaction between polymer filler materials (such as carbon black and silica) and other rubber chemicals at the molecular level. The “Fuel Saver Sidewall” compounding lowers rolling resistance by returning more energy to the tire than a normal sidewall. The result is less heat generation.
BRIDGESTONE AMERICAS TIRE OPERATIONS LLC
Continental’s EcoPlus Technology combines technical expertise developed in rolling resistance with good mileage and wet braking. Currently there are two products that feature EcoPlus Technology — the ProContact EcoPlus for passenger cars and minivans and the CrossContact LX20 for crossovers, SUVs, and trucks.
Continental says the CrossContact LX20 can save the average driver up to 2,500 miles of fuel over the life of the tire. The tire also features smooth response technology offering a smooth and comfortable ride, optimum handling and reduced road noise.
The Continental CrossContact LX20 is backed by a 70,000-mile/72-month limited warranty, and 12-month free replacement. It is available in a wide range of sizes from 16- to 20-inch wheel diameters.
CONTINENTAL TIRE THE AMERICAS LLC
Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.’s GFE (Greater Fuel Efficiency) tire is T-rated and available in eight sizes targeted for fuel-efficient vehicles, but also includes popular broad-line sizes.
The GFE contains Cooper’s Energy Return Technology, a new tread stock that boasts a unique silica technology married with a specialized polymer to provide very low rolling resistance while maintaining outstanding wet grip and long tread life.
The GFE carries a 60,000-mile tread wear protection warranty. It also is covered under Cooper’s standard warranty and comes with a 45-day road test.
COOPER TIRE & RUBBER CO.
GT Radial Champiro 228
The GT Radial Champiro 228, available in 30 sizes, is marketed by GITI (USA) Ltd. as a “performance tire for drivers desiring more than a smooth ride, comfort and excellent grip” but “who also expect eco-friendly and fuel efficient tires.”
This performance touring tire feature a Nanotek silica compound for reduced rolling resistance and strong grip in wet and dry conditions. Nanotek silica is a manufacturing technology process which utilizes Nano-grade silica nodules.
These nodules, which are smaller than traditional silica nodules, are mixed into GITI’s specially formulated polymer-carbon black matrix by employing a silane-based coupling agent and a proprietary mixing technique. The result is a product that provides the lower rolling resistance along with the improved wet handling performance.
GITI TIRE (USA) LTD.
Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max
Goodyear’s Assurance Fuel Max powerline offers over 60 sizes covering passenger, mini-van, and CUV/SUV segments.
The Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max is an all-season traction tire with a full range of 32 sizes. Additionally, Assurance CS Fuel Max is a tire with the same fuel-saving benefits, available in 21 sizes for SUVs and crossover vehicles.
The Assurance Fuel Max is available in 34 passenger car sizes ranging from 185/65R15 88H to P235/65R17 103H. An additional 21 sizes are available for SUVs and crossovers in the Assurance CS Fuel Max version.
Goodyear backs both tire lines with a 65,000-mile limited tread wear warranty.
GOODYEAR TIRE & RUBBER CO.
Hankook enfren eco
New for 2012 from Hankook is the enfren eco Eco-Friendly All-Season Performance tire. Launched at the 2011 SEMA show, the enfren eco specifically targets low rolling resistance and improved fuel economy. The enfren eco was the first tire imported to Japan to receive the AAA mark in the country’s Labeling System for Fuel Efficient Tires.
The enfren eco is available in five sizes from 185/65R15H, 195/60R15H, 195/65R15H, 215/60R16H and 205/55R16H. Second quarter 2012 additions to the enfren eco line include sizes 195/55R16V, 215/45R17V and 205/65R16H.
HANKOOK TIRE AMERICA CORP.
Kumho Ecowing KH30
Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc.’s Ecowing KH30 is a high-performance all-season touring tire for imported and domestic compact, mid-size and full size sedans and coupes.
The Ecowing KH30 is formulated with eco-friendly, silica-based compounds, and features low rolling resistance and long tread life. The tire is available in 22 H- and V-rated sizes backed by a 60,000-mile tread wear warranty. The Eco-wing KH30 rounds out the company’s eco-friendly line of tires, which includes the eco Solus HM for passenger cars and eco Solus KL21 for crossover vehicles.
KUMHO TIRE U.S.A. INC.
The Michelin Defender tire is the newest tire featuring the Michelin Green X designation. Further mass reduction and a reduction in rolling resistance makes the Michelin Defender tire 17% better in rolling resistance than the previous generation Michelin product. It is available in 38 sizes ranging from 175/70R 13 to 225/50R 18.
The Defender tire is backed by the Michelin Promise Plan.Michelin is launching a 90,000-mile warranty with the Defender.
MICHELIN NORTH AMERICA INC. ■
See part two in June covering low rolling resistance tires from Nexen Tire America Inc. to Yokohama Tire Corp.