Swimming upstream at OE: Part two

June 1, 2001

In May, the first of our two-part series on the extracurricular original equipment activities of tire manufacturers emphasized what Continental AG was up to. The second focuses on what other tiremakers are doing.

With the understanding that vehicle makers are driving the movement toward a systems approach, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Michelin North America Inc. and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. appear well positioned to do what they are being asked to do.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber

Goodyear has formed important alliances to ensure that it is ready, and has put into place what it refers to as its "corner strategy."

Goodyear's commitment to marketing by system includes alliances and agreements with the following non-tire companies:

* Phase IV Engineering Inc., a developer of custom radio frequency identification and radio telemetry systems. Goodyear, which owns a 20% equity position in the company, is working with Phase IV to develop advanced tire pressure monitoring technology.

* Cycloid Systems, a developer of continuous air pressure monitoring and tire pressure maintenance systems. Goodyear is working with Cycloid under a technical agreement.

* T&WA, which puts together and ships mounted and balanced tires on new wheels to vehicle makers (see photo). "We are already shipping Dunlop brand tires via T&WA to the Mercedes Benz plant in Vance, Ala., and the Toyota plant in Princeton, Ind.," says Bill Hopkins, vice president of global product marketing and technology. "Ford has also signed a contract for its minivan plant in Avon Lake, Ohio, the latest to take advantage of Goodyear's corner strategy."

Hopkins says Goodyear already is supplying strut mounts, bushings and many elastomer products that fit into the suspension category to vehicle manufacturers. "Beyond that, our corner strategy, much of which is still in the development stages, is designed to enable consumers to safely, conveniently and regularly maintain proper tire pressure. In turn, this will lead to longer and more even tire wear, increased fuel economy and safer driving conditions.

"To keep the process moving forward, we are also peer partnering with such companies as TRW, Delphi and Siemens."

Hopkins says Goodyear is talking with the people at Phase IV about the possibility of sending a reduced tire pressure warning signal to a telematic screen on the dashboard. "At the same time, we are talking with Cycloid about an inertia pump that can be mounted in the wheel cavity. Along with a sensor that continuously monitors changes in tire air pressure, the pump will continuously add air when required."

Is all of this commercially available now? "Not yet, but we're talking about it," says Hopkins.

Michelin North America

According to Don Baldwin, manager of new business development with Michelin North America Inc.'s OE group, the company is more than familiar with just-in-time strategy and shipping tires to customers of vital national interest. For example, the company is under contract with the United States Navy to supply tires anywhere in the world within four days and anywhere in the U.S. in two days.

"That said, there is clearly a trend in place among new vehicle makers to reduce development cycle time by reducing the number of iterations," says Baldwin. "In fact, one might go so far to say that a revolution is in place and it is being driven by the OE market."

At the top of Michelin's list of what it can offer vehicle makers is the Michelin PAX system. "It is a complete system comprised of a tire with an entirely new architecture and anchoring system along with a wheel which includes a run-flat support ring and an electronic run-flat (or low pressure) detector," says the company. The PAX tire cannot be unseated from the wheel unless it is dismounted on the proper equipment. The bead, which is very rigid, serves to not only anchor the tire onto the rim but also lock it onto the rim.

The PAX system is linked to Michelin's goal of becoming an even bigger OE supplier. "For example, we are involved in a 50/50 joint venture with WOCO, a company that produces anti-vibration systems and bushings," says Baldwin. "We have also signed technical agreements with TRW to create the next generation of low pressure sensors, and Amcast/Speedline, the maker of wheels designed exclusively for the PAX system. Additionally, we have signed a technical agreement with Dow Chemical to work on polyurethane run-flat supports."

Baldwin says Michelin will purchase wheels from several suppliers to keep the PAX system moving. Alcoa was mentioned as one of those companies likely to be selected as a supplier.


Eighteen months ago, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. (BFS) put together a dedicated team with one directive: to focus on the concept of OE vehicle systems integration (modularity) on a global basis.

"Our goal is to improve the quality of the vehicle, the manufacturing process and OE customer satisfaction across the entire supply chain in a cost effective manner," says Art Stuart, president of Bridgestone/Firestone's OE sales division. "This is an important new strategy at BFS in that we want to be more than just a tire supplier to our OE customers. It is something I see as part of an ongoing strategy."

Like some of its competition, BFS is providing its OE customers with rubber components such as power train mounts, engine cradle mounts, air springs and suspension insulators. "We can help control the ride and handling characteristics of a vehicle and our OE customers are asking for more help in this endeavor," says Stuart.

Last year, BFS acquired a 3% stake in Kayaba Industries Co. Ltd., a shock absorber maker. Reportedly, the two companies will collaborate on making passenger tire-related module components.

Stuart says independent tire dealers will fit into the equation. "They are performing brake work now and they will perform brake work in the future. The same holds true for tune-ups, front-end alignments and tire/wheel mounting and balancing, to name a few.

"My advice to all tire dealers is to pay strict attention to what's going on at OE. Talk with your tire supplier and remain current with your trade book reading with a special focus on news about vehicle makers. This is the start of a new trend and there will be many places set at the table."

Stopping power from Continental Teves

Continental Teves, a subsidiary of Continental AG, produced intelligent stability and handling systems for the new 2001 full-size Toyota Sequoia Sport utility vehicle manufactured by Toyota in Princeton, Ind.

The German-based firm also provided the ABS system, brake boosters, tandem master cylinders, calipers, brake hose and brake corner modules for the 2001 Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute.

Even Car and Driver was impressed. According to the magazine, the ABS-equipped, front-disc, rear drum binders halted the 3,550-pound Ford Escape from 70 mph in just 171 feet -- besting all other production SUVs it tested. The brakes in the one-word description of tester Frank Markus were "phenomenal."

Other Ford vehicles with Continental Teves ABS systems include the Ford Ranger, Explorer/Mountaineer, Explorer Sport Trac and Explorer Sport.

The company also is supplying ABS for the Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Cherokee, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Chrysler's Town & Country Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. It is supplying brake components for the Mercedes Benz M-Class SUV as well as BMW's X5 SUV entry and the Nissan Xterra.

The Lincoln L56 comes with a Continental Teves-provided ABS system, a traction control system and an ESP (electronic stability program). Likewise, the Lincoln Continental gets the ABS and traction control system, along with the Lincoln Town Car and the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis. The Ford Taurus and Focus also use specific brake components from Continental Teves.

At Chrysler the list of systems being supplied by Continental Teves is lengthy. Other notables getting the full Continental Teves treatment include the BMW Z3, which comes with virtually every brake part in the Continental Teves arsenal, and the new VW Beetle.

To forward this trend, over the next five years, Continental will invest more than $51 million in its Continental Teves brake factory in Jicin in the Czech Republic, according to Tyres & Accessories magazine.

"We can expect to see electronics playing a greater role in existing and future vehicle subsystem components," says Jeff Klei, vice president of sales and marketing for Continental Teves N.A.