MTD Mid-Year Q&A: Pirelli CEO Details Growth Plans

June 5, 2024

Pirelli Tire North America (PTNA) is in growth mode, says Claudio Zanardo, the company's CEO. He provides a look at Pirelli’s strategy in this MTD exclusive.

MTD: First, can you tell us about PTNA’s performance during the first half of 2024?

Zanardo: 2024 started in a very good way for PTNA. We are growing and not in an easy environment. Thanks to the new products we have presented and new cooperation with partners, we see the first half of 2024 as being positive with our growth and the resilient performance of our brand. The market is not easy and we are approaching it the right way.

MTD: How would you assess the state of the U.S. consumer tire market?

Zanardo: Overall, it’s a flat market, but the good thing is that the high-value market – what we call the 18- and 19-inch and up market – is showing resilience and is growing. This is extremely positive for us because we play in that market. We see the 19-inch market growing (by) double digits. New segments, as well, are growing. I’m talking about the EV market and the all-weather segment. And in these markets, we’re present and they have been supporting our growth.

MTD: Some of PTNA’s competitors believe that EVs do not require EV-specific tires. PTNA has taken the opposite approach. Why is Pirelli making such a concentrated investment in designing and manufacturing EV-specific tires?

Zanardo: Pirelli’s strategy is based on the perfect fitment. We are designing, we are producing and we are developing the best products specifically for each car and this has applied, as well, to the EV market. We know these cars... have different requirements in terms of weight, in terms of torque and (in terms of) driving dynamics. So in order not to take compromises and to keep the maximum level of performance, quality and handling – and optimizing all of this performance – it's mandatory to have a dedicated product.

MTD: Does the investment that Pirelli is making in EV tires benefit Pirelli’s non-EV tires?

Zanardo: Yes, in many different aspects. We are working a lot on the research of new materials and all the research we do is beneficial for (our entire) range.

MTD: Last year, Pirelli revealed that its Elect EV tire line had attained more than 300 OE homologations worldwide. How is the Elect line doing in the U.S. and is Pirelli actively pursuing fitments on North American-market EVs?

Zanardo: Today we have more than 550 homologations for EV tires. And Pirelli Elect technology is the driver of growth in this segment. We are growing through investment in both the OE (market) and in the replacement market. In particular in North America, we are working a lot in partnership with pure electric players, like Rivian and Tesla, and we’re working together with the traditional automakers.

MTD: Pirelli's plant in Mexico recently built its 50th millionth tire. Can you tell us about the investments Pirelli is making in Mexico?

Zanardo: The plant in Mexico is a never-ending investment in terms of growth, new technologies applied and new machinery. It's a fully dedicated plant for North America, but it’s not just a plant. It’s a research and development center. It’s a place where we develop, produce and test all of our products dedicated to North America. So we are investing there – not just in terms of production capacity, but also in terms of technology.

MTD: What percent of your products are currently made in Mexico versus made at your plant in Rome, Ga.? Do you see the Mexico plant accounting for a higher percentage of your North American product mix over time?

Zanardo: The Mexico plant is the biggest plant we have in the region and is able to provide a huge quantity for the North American market. Our Rome, Ga., plant has a completely different role. We produce small lots of very high-technology (tires there). In Mexico, we produce high volumes. The Georgia plant is dedicated to small lots of products.

MTD: Let’s talk about the new Pirelli Performance associate dealer program...

Zanardo: We’re very proud of this program that we launched at the end of 2023. We are now expanding it nationwide. The program is dealer-centric, simple and scalable ... an entire environment of instruments and benefits to serve the market. Everything is easy to learn. Pirelli is always evolving, so we are working to expand and (implement) additional features every month.

MTD: What will be PTNA’s biggest priority during the second half of the year?

Zanardo: There are multiple priorities, always. Our direction is a direction of growth and serving the market in the best way. We have huge demand. Customers and consumers are asking more and more for Pirelli products. Our biggest priority will be to serve this demand in the most efficient way. There will be development of new products and developing more and more the quality of our product and the power of our brand.

The message is that Pirelli is strong, Pirelli is present and we have amazing products developed for the North American market. We are extremely proud of what we are doing so far.

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.

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