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The evolution of a sector that is increasingly decisive for global mobility is concentrated in the story of a company. From a passion for retreading to the challenge of quality, it is a story that began half a century ago

Duilio Damiani

IT IS ONE of those memorable birthdays that are the indelible sign of the passing of an era rooted in the economic boom of the Sixties. Times that are totally different to those of today.  Certainly not a finishing line, but a significant point from which to continue the work begun three generations earlier in February 1962 by Giovanni Palmeri, the founder of La Superior, the Catania-based company that specializes in retreading tyres for cars and trucks and is now directed in this new millennium by his son, Giuseppe.
An industrial story that reflects some of Italy’s business enterprises, a company as unique as the character it was given by the founder but similar in vocation to many other small and large companies that are run with sound values and a spirit of sacrifice. And which has reached the present day by consolidating a business that operates mainly at local level as far as the regions surrounding its base in Sicily.

It was the year …
of booming mobility, just after the middle of last century, when motorization was widespread throughout the country and when a farsighted Giovanni Palmeri began to hot-retread tyres for the wheels that were driving the entire domestic economy. Fiat had made a car that all families could afford, mass consumerism imposed the extraordinary circulation of goods and vehicles, and in Sicily La Superior contributed to regenerating the tyres of the cars and trucks that drove on a network of roads that continued to develop and expand. Much smaller than the 5,500 square metres now occupied by the complex, the original Misterbianco headquarters at the foot of Etna were fitted with the first equipment, most of which was manually operated, that would handle a maximum daily production of 9 retreaded tyres for trucks and about 70 for cars. In general, the  range included standard sizes and with only a few moulds it could handle the majority of references in circulation at the time; car rims measured 12, 13 and 14 inches and the demand represented over half of the production at Catania; unthinkable proportions today given the vast number of sizes in circulation.
After the years of company start-up and consolidation, when its size and production capacity continued to grow considerably, the installation of sophisticated and increasingly precise machinery meant that the tyres retreaded at the foot of Etna spread rapidly to include the vehicles in circulation throughout the region. The use of quality material and respect for regulations and homologation, allowed La Superior to become established not only locally, but also in neighbouring provinces and, finally, they landed on the other side of the Strait and the provinces of Crotone, Cosenza and Reggio Calabria in particular.
Since that first day we have always aimed at quality, using branded materials and meticulously checking the casings to be retreaded”,  recounted Giuseppe Palmeri, who took over the paternal business together with his three sons. “It is primarily the values that were transmitted by the founder that distinguish the quality of our products, which are followed, one by one, throughout the entire process.  We have always believed that it is better to aim at quality rather than quantity, to create loyalty among our customers, who know that they are getting products that are comparable with new tyres.  Only the most carefully selected casings and retreading materials will guarantee good mileage for every vehicle,  the cost-effectiveness of which depends mainly on its tyres.”
An advanced process that was certainly contributed to by La Superior’s membership of AIRP since 1970 – the secretary at that time was Degli Esposti –  and thanks to which meetings with similar retreading firms operating throughout Italy have enabled the company run by the Palmeri family in Catania to maintain substantial alignment with modern production processes and keep in step with the times.

The present
The current economic situation and the increasingly differentiated demand that characterizes today’s market have imposed rationalization on all firms operating in the retreading sector. La Superior is no exception and when faced with new challenges, its first response in 2010 was to introduce cold-retreading processes, in addition to the traditional process, thanks to the support of Bandag retreading systems with pre-moulded bands for trucks and light transport vehicles.
A development that will see the gradual abandonment of the car segment, currently a tiny 20-30% of the total production for cars and 4x4s, where the increasing variety of rim sizes would mean investing in moulds and machinery that would not be justified by demand.
The company’s business will focus more and more on the truck sector, a trend confirmed by growing demand that is motivated by the need to save on operating costs and is reflected in the  retreads being offered by big brands of new tyres, products that are being reassessed by the entire road transport sector.  And even in a niche market mostly dedicated to third-party fleets handled directly by the Sicilian company, the Palmeri family business will continue to operate in an increasingly energetic market with the same dynamism that characterized its first fifty years.

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