Sailun Talks EVs, New Technology and Continued 'Flight to Value'
'We Saw a Big Opportunity'
"If you look at the electric vehicle (EV) tire space, there aren't too many choices right now," says Mark Pereira, director of marketing for Sailun Tire Americas.
Sailun is making a run at the burgeoning EV market with a new tire, ERANGE EV, and a new mixing technology, EcoPoint3, which allows rubber compounding materials to be mixed in a fully uniform way, under continuous liquid phase conditions.
The Sailun ERANGE EV - which will be available in more than 30 sizes - has been specifically designed for EVs and will be the company’s first product that benefits from EcoPoint3, which Pereira says has been in development “for the better part of almost a decade.”
“We’re focused on getting the ERANGE EV into the market later this year - towards the end of 2022,” Pereira told MTD during a May 11 track day event at Miami (Fla.) Homestead Speedway.
The ERANGE EV will be distributed through TBC Corp., which will use National Tire Wholesale (NTW) “as the conduit to the U.S. market. We’ll make sure we load up retailers across the U.S. going into the spring of 2023."
The tire, which will be made at Sailun's plant in Cambodia, also will be available in Canada. “And as demand ramps up, we’ll continue to work with TBC on where (else) it makes sense to place this product.”
Getting dialed in
Sailun says that by the year 2035, 34% of vehicles on roads will be EVs.
“We saw a big opportunity with EVs coming,” Pereira told MTD. And that opportunity brings design, construction and manufacturing challenges for tiremakers.
“The demands (placed on EV tires) are completely different than a traditional tire. Rolling resistance has to be (low). Many EVs have a ton of torque. Grip for emergency braking has to be there. And the tire has to last.
“We’re hearing from a lot of EV drivers who are realizing that their vehicles are going through tires at a higher rate than (tires on) traditional internal combustion engine cars. That’s a cost they hadn't expected. Now they’re changing tires a year earlier than they thought.
“So we had to make sure our technology caught up with what the market’s demanding,” said Pereira. “If you look at what’s happening with EVs, it’s a cultural shift as well as a product shift and it made so much sense to create a flagship product that would address those challenges and enhance the performance of those vehicles.
“Once we get (EcoPoint3) dialed in right, which we will with the ERANGE EV lineup, where else can this technology help us? There are a couple of different things we’re looking at that are brand new” applications for EcoPoint3.
“We’re also looking at” infusing EcoPoint3 into “some of our best-selling products in the market. As we invest in factories that use liquid phase mixing machines, it’s only natural that the other tires we have - in a phased approach - will be built that way.”
'Flight to value' continues
Sailun is developing tools to help its dealers sell the ERANGE EV and explain EcoPoint3 technology to consumers. And the company will continue to push its traditional value proposition.
Elvis Herra, store manager at Gutierrez Tire, a single-location independent tire dealership in Reno. Nev., told MTD that Sailun's timing couldn’t be better. “Value brands are coming up. Their quality sometimes outperforms premium tires.”
Herra, who runs Sailun tires on his personal vehicle, a Volkswagen Jetta, says his store is seeing “a lot more Teslas,” partially due to a nearby Tesla battery and component factory. “We’re going to promote the ERANGE EV.”
End users continue to gravitate to less expensive tires, noted Chris Weir, regional sales director at NTW’s Austin, Texas, location.
“Sailun is the brand we push when our dealers’ customers aren’t looking to pay a premium price, but want a solid, well-rounded tire," he said. "I consider Sailun to be a premium tire without the premium price.”
“There’s been a flight to value that I think got a shot in the arm” during COVID-19, said Pereira.
“Speaking with some of our retailers and the guys behind the counter, you hear there’s a lot of optimism now, (demand) is growing and business has picked up again. But a lot of consumers have had to tighten their belts over the last two years.
“I think consumers right now are more open to trying a brand that might not have the same equity of other brands they have heard of. But they still do their homework. We want to make sure we provide education to (tire dealerships') counter staff so they can inform consumers.
“We need to be in touch with the end user. Someone might walk into a tire store looking for an original equipment replacement, then see the price and wince a little bit. If they can save a few hundred dollars on a set of tires that can do the same thing” as a more expensive product, “it’s a no-brainer” for many consumers.