Michelin Highlights ‘EV-Ready’ Product Strategy

March 18, 2024

“We care about giving people everywhere a better way forward,” Alexis Garcin, president and CEO of Michelin North America Inc., said during the company’s recent Sustainability Summit, which took place in Sonoma, Calif.

This philosophy underpins Michelin’s sustainability strategy, which includes the development of what company executives call “electric vehicle (EV)-ready tires” across its product range. 

Garcin told Sustainability Summit attendees that Michelin already has “road-ready passenger tires made with 40% recyclable and renewable tires” and added that a Michelin brand tire fitted on a hydrogen-powered car during last year’s 24 Hours of Lemans race contained more than 60% renewable/recyclable components.

Michelin’s goal is to produce tires with 100% renewable and recyclable materials by the year 2050.

The company’s more immediate target is to have an EV-ready tire for every passenger tire application.

“Our goal at Michelin is not to have to create a lot of EV-specific SKUs and there are a few reasons for that,” Katelyn Margetson, vice president of marketing for consumer products, Michelin, told MTD during the Summit event.

“One, it allows flexibility in our business model. The evolution of the car parc is going to exponentially increase the amount of fitments and different types of tires out there. In addition, we have the demands that EVs put on tires. How do we solve for that? The third piece is this sustainability endeavor we’re focusing on with (our tire) materials.

“When you combine complexity with the demands of EVs and our aggressive approach on the sustainability front, we have to sit back and ask, ‘Over the next 10 to 20 years, how are we going to manage our portfolio in a way that continues to live up to our performance standards, while not constraining our business operations?’”

Margetson said this prompted Michelin to decide to design and manufacture “all of our passenger tires to be prepared for EVs. It means they’re going to be prepared for the heaviest vehicles and the highest amount of torque and not make it about, ‘If I’m driving an EV or an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, what do I have to choose?’ We’re going right to what’s important for the driver. Is it range? Is it durability? We would rather the decision be made at that level.

“Michelin has been anticipating this transition going on 30 years,” said Margetson, adding that the U.S. vehicle market, in general, “is moving toward heavier vehicles. If we can design our tires to meet the needs of these vehicles, we’re solving it in other places, as well. It’s a win-win.” 

In addition to simplifying the tire selection process for consumers, Michelin’s “EV-ready” product strategy also is helping dealers make replacement tire recommendations more easily, according to Margetson.

“What we have heard from many of our partners is that this dramatically simplifies things for their sales associates. Part of our job is how we demystify and decomplexify the situation,” which she added has been “a big challenge” for the whole tire industry. 

During the Sustainability Summit, Garcin told MTD that while Michelin believes consumer EV adoption “will plateau” temporarily, long-term adoption of EVs “is a trend that’s not stopping. When you look at what’s happening across the globe, that trend is rising,” though he conceded that widespread acceptance of EVs “might take more time” in the United States due to its large geography and infrastructure requirements.

“We also see demand for hybrid vehicles steadily increasing. That’s why having what we call an EV-ready tire line is the best answer to address this market evolution.”

Garcin told MTD that tire dealers and distributors will play a critical role in educating consumers about Michelin’s EV tire strategy.

“When you consider the way we go to market, we don’t own retailers,” he said. “We don’t own distribution. We rely on our (dealer) partners. What we’ll further invest in is making sure those partners are fully educated so they can explain to customers that not all tires are the same.

“At a time when the sustainability piece is becoming more important” in the tire industry, “for Michelin, this is nothing new. And I think that’s the message we would expect our partners to share with consumers.”

Younger consumers, in particular, are “much more sensitive about (sustainability) and as those people become buyers of tires, I think they will be more receptive” to the concept of sustainable products.

Tire dealers, he noted, “will have to get used to those discussions, which are not easy because you need proof points. Dealers can help us convey the message that for Michelin, it’s about sustainability and performance. We do both at the same time.”

Michelin’s EV-ready concept also extends to commercial tires. Luigi Cumo, Michelin’s vice president of B2B marketing, cited the Michelin X Line Energy Z Plus medium truck tire as an example of a product that is ideal for both electricity and diesel-powered rigs.

The Michelin X Line Energy Z Plus, which is in full production, delivers a 26% rolling resistance improvement over its predecessor and can be retreaded up to four times, he noted. The tire also is available on the new Freightliner eCascadia electric truck.

“When it comes to the operations of our fleet customers, tires are a substantial component,” Katie Rabideau, eMobility product marketing manager, Daimler Truck North America, told Sustainability Summit attendees during a panel discussion with Cumo. “Michelin has led a lot of innovation.”

During the Sustainability Summit, Michelin executives also touched on how the company is working toward greater sustainability in other areas of its business. 

George Kurian, vice president of supply chain and logistics, said Michelin is “maximizing the number of tires on every truckload we deliver to customers,” while “exploring multimodal" transportation alternatives.

 The idea is to “reduce the distance a tire travels from the point it’s manufactured to when it’s mounted on a vehicle.”

Michelin has made “significant strides to improve (its) carbon footprint,” Nathalia Hasselmann, who manages Michelin’s Greenville, S.C., passenger tire plant, told attendees. “In South Carolina, we recently made a large investment to improve our process.” 

She added that the company is exploring new energy sources for its plants. “We have an aggressive roadmap to improve upon” Michelin’s environmental impact.

Executives also discussed Michelin’s efforts to develop hydrogen fuel cell technology for vehicles.

“We believe EVs alone are not enough to satisfy all of society’s mobility needs,” said Kurian, who explained that Michelin has been working on hydrogen fuel cell technology for the past two decades.

Executives also discussed Symbio, the joint hydrogen fuel cell technnology development venture that Michelin formed with Stallantis and Forvia. “We are clearly making inroads,” said Kurian.

In addition to several presentations and panel discussions, Michelin’s Sustainability Summit featured a ride-and-drive session at Sonoma Raceway that involved several high-performance EVs. And guests had an opportunity to drive a new Freightliner eCascadia fitted with the Michelin X Line Energy Z Plus and check out a John Deere farm tractor equipped with size 480/80R50 very-high flexion Michelin ag tires and a central tire inflation system.

About the Author

Mike Manges | Editor

Mike Manges is Modern Tire Dealer’s editor. A 25-year tire industry veteran, he is a three-time International Automotive Media Association award winner and holds a Gold Award from the Association of Automotive Publication Editors. Mike has traveled the world in pursuit of stories that will help independent tire dealers move their businesses forward. Before rejoining MTD in September 2019, he held corporate communications positions at two Fortune 500 companies and served as MTD’s senior editor from 2000 to 2010.