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Automotive Product Finder Magazine | National standards are applied to push tyre manufacturers improve quality
National standards are applied to push tyre manufacturers improve quality
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In today’s time, the quality of tyres will improve depending upon the increase in performance requirements. So, there is a need to improve the quality of the tyres when new generation vehicles are coming into the Indian market. In this conversation with APF’s Neellohit Banerjee, Sanjay Mathur, General Manager, Pirelli Tires in India, elucidates on the tyre market picture, and how the improving vehicles production is helping the case of car tyres. On the two-wheeler front, it is entering a whole new segment, the radials.
How do you think is the domestic tyre market performing?
There is a growth in the tyre market. Every year it is growing by 10-11 per cent. For car tyres, it is really good because the vehicles production is increasing, and as a result the amount of tyre requirement is increasing. When it comes to the two-wheeler category, that is also growing and it is entering into a new segment altogether, which is the radials. Radials are required for vehicles which are comparatively heavier and which has got a little higher cc capacity, and which can run at a higher speed. The segment where the radial goes is where performance is required. As of now, people are using two wheelers only for commuting, but when you go into the comfort or performance aspect, the requirement also changes. If you see, the market is changing from 150-200cc to a higher cc capacity segment. At present 150-200cc capacity segment is stagnant and highly competitive. Growth is positive in the above 250cc category.
How has the market of tyres evolved with the changing demands from end customers?
The demand of the tyres can be classified quantity-wise and quality wise. Quality is going to improve as soon as the speed and the performance requirements increase. Till now, we used to get an average of speed of 30-40 km/hr. When there are good freeways and highways coming up, we do need to fit better tyres, because even though the legal speed limit may be 100 km/hr, there are vehicles which are being sold with the speedometer reading of 220-230 km/hr, which means these can easily go up to anywhere between 170-190 km/hr. We cannot provide tyres meant for a vehicle having a speedometer reading of 220-240 km/hr, with tyres that have speed limits of 110-120 km/hr. So there is a need to improve the quality of the tyres when new generation vehicles are coming into the Indian market.
We know that there are different tread patterns. So between directional and asymmetric, what functions do they perform?
When we use a vehicle for commuting, and the speeds are not high, a tyre with high grip is not required. First we need to understand what is an asymmetrical and directional tyre. Asymmetric tyres have a tread pattern which is different on one half of the tread pattern and different on the other half of the tyre tread pattern. On one of its sidewall the word ‘outer’ is embossed. The tyre has to always be fitted with the sidewall where ‘outer’ is embossed, facing outside of the body of the vehicle. It always remains the same either on the left-hand side or the right-hand side of the vehicle.
When a vehicle is travelling at high-speed, while cornering, the vehicle weight increases onto a particular area of the tyre, which is the outer part of the tyre because of the shifting of the vehicle weight on one side. When the vehicle is traveling during cornering and is going through a wet surface, there is a need to have better increase in the grip, otherwise the tyres will skid. An asymmetric tyre has a very good grip and a different kind of a rubber compound on the tread which is on the outside half of the tyre. Directional tyres usually have an arrow kind of a pattern in the tread and are designed to work in only one direction of rotation. It has an arrow sign on its sidewall showing the user to fit the tyre properly so that it rotates in the correct direction. When a vehicle moves at high-speed on wet roads, the front tyres, which is a directional tyre, suck the water from underneath the tyre and pump it out to make the road less slippery. The rear tyre, when it travels over the front tyres footprint, maintains or improves the grip. This is required to stop the aquaplaning phenomena on wet roads.
What do you, as a manufacturer, focus on while improving the performance of the tyres?
We believe mainly in two things – safety and comfort. It is useless to have tyres which do not stop, as required, when you apply brakes in any kind of a situation. We believe in producing tyres which have very good grip because we build tyres for vehicles which travel at very high speed like Ferrari, Porsche, Maserati, McLaren, Lamborghini, etc. which travel at speeds over 250-300 km/hr. These vehicle manufacturers trust us, and fit our tyres as OE fitment, because we build tyres for these kind of speeds which need extremely high grip. Secondly, during driving, if there is a vibration or harshness on the steering wheel because of the tyres, there is a certain kind of uneasiness. It is one of the most basic things that is required for a comfortable ride.
What is the current scenario with regards to R&D technology?
We spend over 3.5 per cent of our turnover only on Research and Development, and we spend over 7 per cent of the turnover of high-performance and ultra high-perfromance car tyres on R&D, in that segment – segment where the quality matters. If we are selling something for $100, $7 is going for R&D. That is a segment which helps us to provide latest technology for other regular segments as well. Today, we, as a tyre manufacturer have over 5,500 patents in tyre technologies.
National standards are applied to push the tyre manufacturers to improve quality. The European Union forces the tyre manufacturers to meet certain standards, and that compels them to develop something new and better. We are, at present supplying tyres to users in India, that are being produced, sold and used in Europe. It’s compulsory to have labels on the tyres which are sold in EU. These labels declare the low rolling resistance of the tyres which can give information about the amount of fuel the vehicle can save. Because of low rolling resistant tyres the fuel consumption will come down. The label also gives details about the level of the grip and noise level the tyre can provide when fitted. Label on a tyre is mandatory in Europe and is being planned to be implemented also in India wherein tyre manufacturers will be forced to produce tyres which have low rolling resistance, better grip and low noise. These are some of the new things which are going to come in India.
After the Make in India initiative, how important is localisation?
Localisation of a product is when the volume suffices the production cost. At present, many products cannot be locally produced because the demand of the product is not enough to produce them locally. We are into a very niche market, and the market is really small. If we want to produce a tyre for any European car maker, the quantity sold in India is very small. If you produce, it is going to be really expensive. Make in India is a noble initiative, but we are not into the volume business. For a car manufacturer which sells approximately 10,000 cars per annum and has 20 to 30 different tyre size requirement, the volume is not enough to produce the tyre locally. Tyres are being produced for car manufacturers who sell vehicles in volume. Make in India is not helpful when it comes to specialisation and where volumes are not there.
What is your forecast for the tyre market?
India produces and sells approximately 3 million cars per annum and the total circulating car park in India is around 25 million. The market is good but cities cannot take any more vehicles in India. If intercity travel comes up, then vehicle sales will improve, which will increase the tyre sales in India.
Radials are required for vehicles which are comparatively heavier and which has got a little higher cc capacity, and which can run at a higher speed. The segment where the radial goes is where performance is required.
Tyres are being produced for car manufacturers who sell vehicles in volume. Make in India is not helpful when it comes to specialisation and where volumes are not there.
Domestic Tyre Market
R And D Technology
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