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04/07/2017
ALL-ROUND TRADE SHOW

Special Autopromotec: wheels and tires

 

The entire wheel supply chain under the spot light at Autopromotec 2017 with a flurry of new products and a rich program of meetings and initiatives aimed at showcasing one of the country’s sectors of excellence  

Nicoletta Ferrini

 

Round and black. This is really the simplest and most trivial possible definition for a tire, too often disregarded despite being fundamental for mobility. The 27th edition of Autopromotec, an international biennial dedicated to automotive equipment and aftermarket, set matters straight assigning a well deserved  recognition to this essential component. The event, which took place on May 24 to 28 at the Bologna fair grounds, in fact, turned the spotlight on a supply chain that boasts, around the world and especially in Italy, names and examples of excellence.

 

Tires and wheels on the move

Autopromotec’s organizers doubled the exhibition area dedicated to tires compared to the 2015 edition. In addition to Halls 20, 22 and 31, this year’s trade show opened the doors of Hall 15, devoting it entirely to tires, welcoming all the manufacturers and retailers of the sector, whether specialized in new or rebuilt tires and wheels. Overall, the four Halls hosted 271 companies, with a clear prevalence of international operators and a growing presence of manufacturers  from the Middle East. To the over 19,000 square meters dedicated to tires, a further outdoor area, called area 42, was added, in which some of the main players in the sector were present, while Hall 19, for the first time in the history of Autopromotec was exclusively reserved to tire care equipment with as many as 48 companies taking part, many of which were Italian companies with a consolidated international leadership.

We can safely say that the “elite” of the tire and wheel world was present at this year’s kermesse. Not only  the industry’s largest producers, but also the main trading associations, networks and consortia have chosen to be present and, along with industry and media experts, contributed to widening the discussion, with a special focus on some of the key issues facing the sector, during some of the dedicated conventions held under the AutopromotecEDU banner.

 

And the tire of the future? Eye-catching, smart and talkative

The question that hovered over the entire event was: what will the future of the wheel unit be, in the increasingly connected and digital future of the automotive market? The answer is that tire makers are preparing to play, yet again, a key role. Leading producers are unveiling their concept designs and even next generation products, clearly indicating that tires will not remain completely indifferent to the Internet of Thing. In fact, tires are gearing up to be ready to actively communicate with increasingly “smart” vehicles thanks to sensors and devices capable of "reading" the road, "hearing" the wheels and the vehicle on which they are mounted and "communicate" the collected data to the vehicle owner, the manufacturer or repair specialist, as the case may be.

In the next future,  tires will not only be “smarter” and “more communicative”  but also much quieter thanks to technologies aimed at reducing rolling noise. They will even be more "eye-catching". For example, they will not be "round and black" for too long still: in the future they could be spherical  – looking like some concepts showcased in Bologna - and perhaps red, yellow, white or even silver.

At present, however, the tendency is towards all-season products: many proposals, in fact, revolved around this type of tire, though still favouring their summer use on car and light transport vehicles. Furthermore, the entire tire supply chain keeps on looking with growing interest to the truck segment. Almost all major manufacturers now have more than one brand dedicated to this type of market segment. The fact that the transport world is attracting a lot of interest from major tire manufacturers, was evident by the many services specifically designed for the business world and the many fleet management solutions to promote a more efficient approach to the business in terms of cost reductions, energy efficiency and safety.

As the tire segment keeps issuing new products and solutions, specialized wheel manufacturers are still trying to find their way, and their participation at Autopromotec  was more pragmatic than aesthetic. It is no coincidence, therefore, that exhibitors have focused on quality, cutting edge materials and design in their latest products.

                                                                                                          

A virtuous example of a circular economy

Combining cost reductions, energy sustainability and safety is not only desirable, but possible. Autopromotec 2017 highlighted how the entire tyre supply chain itself represents a virtuous example of a circular economy. According to estimates from AIRP (Italian Association of Tire Retreaders), thanks to retreads, it is possible to save up to 70% of the original raw materials, cutting CO2 emissions by more than 30% compared to producing new and similar products. This procedure allows our country to save 107 million litres of crude oil each year and over 30,000 tonnes of other strategic raw materials (natural and synthetic rubber, black smoke, textile fibres, steel and copper).  By extending the life of a tire, another fundamental contribution made by retreads is a decisive drop in the amount of ELTs to be disposed of: a delicate theme that involves firsthand a number of syndicates that, like Ecopneus, engage in collecting and managing worn-out tires. In Italy, 350,000 tons of ELTs are produced on average, of which more than 250,000 are then taken-on by Ecopneus which, since 2011 has been recycling and disposing of them correctly. Despite the best practice and goodwill of many, the system is far from perfect. There are significant  quantities of tires that escape the legal sales and disposal circuit, and are hazardous for the environment, for the citizens, and last but not least for the inland revenue.

 

United to thwart illegality

Undeclared sales, unfair competition, counterfeiting, evasion of ELT environmental contributions used for recycling materials, are some of the most important issues that both the spare parts and tire industry are called upon to face. First of all, trade associations along with the institutions (Ministries, State Police, Customs Office) need to work closely to eradicate a phenomenon that represent not only a health hazard but makes it difficult for virtuous companies to stay in business. At Autopromotec 2017 the theme was extensively dealt with at a conference hosted within the TireArena in Hall 15 and organized by Assogomma and Federpneus, which saw the involvement of the institutions and the industry’s largest associations. The target: finding a truly effective solution, together. Following the same line of thought, Autopromotec launched "CambioPulito", a whistleblowing platform to promote confidential and anonymous reporting of illicit practices throughout the entire sales and distribution chain and ELT management.

 

Safety and awareness go hand in hand                            

Among the various topics dealt with at Autopromoted 2017, safety could not obviously be missing. In this case, technologies alone  –  even if ground-breaking at all levels - are not enough if, upstream, there is no real awareness about the tire’s central role in ensuring road safety. At the Bolognese event, “Pneumatici Sotto Controllo” ( Tires Under Control, a joint initiative launched in 2003 by Assogomma and Federpneus aimed at raising the necessary level of awareness) celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the Traffic Police, as well as the 14 joint activities created to raise a safety culture, public awareness on the importance of tires and to recognize and identify the most negligent and dangerous behaviours.

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