Let it snow (and sleet and freeze...)

March 1, 2008

"Everybody seems to be targeting ice performance,” claims Normand Latremouille, winter category manager for Michelin North America Inc. But there’s more to winter tire performance than ice, snow or any other winter condition, he says.

Michelin’s new Michelin X-Ice Xi2 was engineered with all winter driving conditions in mind, according to Latremouille. “We want to be the best overall product on snow, ice, slush and dry roads. Many people forget that winter roads often are dry.”

The X-Ice Xi2, which will be available this fall, contains a special, proprietary, silica-based compound called FleX-Ice that “offers stability when the temperature is cold and firmness when temperatures are warm.”

Michelin’s FleX-Ice compounding complements other elements of the Xi2’s design, including tread blocks that “are flexible enough not only to break the film of water on icy surfaces” but also to “absorb” remaining water through “micro-pumps” built into the tread. (Micro-pump technology, which is not proprietary to Michelin, has been around for years, says Latremouille.)


“We’ve completely re-designed the tread block and have added some firmness to the edge of the tread block.”

The Xi2 also contains Michelin’s Green X marking, which designates it as having passed certain rolling resistance tests. Consumers sometimes confuse rolling resistance with traction, he explains, and incorrectly believe that tires with low rolling resistance have sub-par traction and grip. “Rolling resistance is the inertia... it’s not related to traction.”

The new T-rated tire will launch in 42 sizes, ranging from 13 to 18 inches in diameter, and will replace certain sizes of its predecessor, the Michelin X-Ice, which was introduced four years ago. It will cover more than 90% of the U.S. passenger car and minivan market.

Michelin does not plan to create a light truck version of the Xi2 at the moment, says Latremouille. The company will continue to sell its Latitude X-Ice light truck product. “The rate of renewal for passenger tires is much higher than the rate of renewal for light truck and SUV tires. That’s the reality in North America.”

The Xi2 will compete against the Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice, the Bridgestone Blizzak WS60 and the Nokian Hakkapeliitta RSi, say Michelin officials.