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Innovation and dynamism with an eye on the new EU label at the international exhibition in Germany that unites the entire tyre industry every two years

Francesco Lojola

THIS YEAR it was important to be there. To observe the central role played by the industry in the west, the technological driving force and chief reference for product standards, despite the crisis that still has the Old Continent in its grip. Swayed also by the European regulation, it was an occasion to reacquire the innovative panache that the changing geography of consumer markets continually attempts to challenge. The four days of the Reifen biennial at Essen, an important international event for the entire tyre segment, was attended by a full complement of major manufacturers.
The numbers testify to the renewed growth of an exhibition that is the stage favoured by the world’s producers of tyres, components, spare parts, accessories, and workshop equipment as well as materials, systems and services for manufacturing, retreading, repairing and servicing. On the one hand, the 27th edition of Reifen had 653 exhibitors representing 44 countries; on the other, it was visited by 19,000 operators from 130 countries, an increase of 5% compared to the previous show.

Competition has multiplied
We were struck, yet again, by the massive presence of China and Taiwan, which together totalled a quarter of all the companies in this exhibition showcase. It is true that not all manufacturers from the Far East are the same and that strong stimulus comes from the premium brands that continually open new factories in Asia, just as partnerships and acquisitions are the driving force behind local industry. Coming back to the exhibition that took place from 5 to 8 June, the spotlight shone on many new developments and emphasized the extreme vitality of a segment working on the ever-increasing demands of eco-compatibility, as well as pushing back the horizons of leading-edge technology with new hi-tech and alternative materials and “green” manufacturing  processes that have never been so sophisticated. But it was the new EU label that dominated all the stands, the cause and effect of general excitement, as demonstrated on the eve of the event by frenzied attempts to find out what competitors would be exhibiting with the EU label and which products were in the highest classes – the terrain of an all-consuming challenge.

EU “AA” label
Undoubtedly it was for those manufacturers who immediately made it a marketing opportunity, like Pirelli, which swept the board with its new Cinturato P7 Blue, a self-certified class “A” for rolling resistance and wet braking in sizes 235/45 R17, 225/55 R16 and 215/55 R16, on the market since July. The concepts from Dunlop and Goodyear were also accredited with the double “A”, the SP Sport BluResponse AA and the EfficientGrip AA Edition (both 205/55 R16), but not yet mass produced. As was the Kumho Ecowing Es01 Kh27 prototype in the 195/65 R15 size, expected for next spring, whereas the other Korean manufacturer, Nexen, is already on the market with N'blue Eco and N'blue HD, both in the “BB” class. Michelin’s new Energy Saver+ was presented in a virtual preview only but most of the range will have the “BA” label. In the “AB” class is Toyo’s Nano Energy 1 which is already available in the 195/65 R15 size. Those who adopted a conservative approach included Yokohama and Continental: the Japanese manufacturer focused on the BluEarth “eco” line and avoided mentioning labels, as did the German company, which took advantage of the occasion to showcase its second lines, Uniroyal, Barum and Semperit.

The battle of the UHPs
Ditto for a Hankook focused more than ever on UHP tyres. The newest with the highest performance is the Ventus S1 evo², which benefits from experience acquired at the DTM championship. Padding out the new developments in the ultra-high performance segment, which should be able to pass the iron-clad rules of the EU label when it comes to consumer choice, were Vredestein and GT Radial with Ultrac Vorti and Champiro Uhp1, respectively; Italy’s Marangoni added new sizes to complete the range of the latest M-Power, and Japan’s Falken brought out the new Azenis Fk453, the outcome of experience on the racetracks.
Vis-à-vis tyres for SUVs and 4x4s, Nokian exhibited the Rotiiva AT all-terrain tyres; there were no important developments in winter tyres that had not been presented at the Geneva Motor Show, with the exception of the directional tyre for SUVs, WeatherMaster WSC by Cooper Tire. Japan’s Bridgestone dedicated its stand to the truck range, new tyres (Ecopia H-Steer and H-Drive) and retreads. A decision that is explained by the Total Tyre Life strategy that embraces the Bridgestone and Bandag truck and bus lines; a cycle that begins with the product from the factory and renews it several times over to the advantage of total running costs. Retreads already represent 40% of truck tyre renewal in Europe and they are growing in an economic situation where new tyres are in decline.

In praise of retreading
Marangoni Retreading Systems launched the Ringtread Black Line, rings that wrap around the ultra-high performance compounds with silica or special carbon black, buckle sipe treads that give more mileage, and the new RDG tread pattern for casings with squarer shoulders and a wider contact patch. Recamic boasts tread patterns that pass from the new product to the pre-moulded stage for mixed use tyres X Works XDY (drive axle); but we’ll have to wait until 2013 for the regional X Multiway 3D XDE.
Staying on the subject of cold retreading, the Eco line is the new development from Vipal that features a green section pressed into the tread. Kraiburg has renewed its all-round K_base series with latest-generation shapes and enlarged its assortment of K_side for the sidewalls, but Galgo has presented new tread designs for long-haul applications for the drive axle, trailer and semitrailer. Technology applied to tyres includes the Pirelli Cyber Fleet control system, a sensor that “reads” and transmits pressure, temperature and the forces exerted on rolling tyres; Alligator Ventilfabrik won the Reifen Innovation Award for its tyre pressure sensor that can be programmed in the workshop and connected via the Internet. The following is a brief overview of the main developments in tyres for cars and 4x4s.

In pride of place at its stand was the first brand from India, the asymmetric Aspire 4G that was launched at the Geneva Motor Show: conceived for mid and top-range saloons, the tyre is available with W and Y speed ratings from 205/55 R16 to 245/40 R18.

Introduced just recently, the versatile summer tyre ContiPremiumContact5 comes in 26 sizes for rims from 14” to 17” and is for small HP vehicles as well as SUVs. It is a combination of the ContiEcoContact 5 and ContiSportContact 5.

The concept Sport BluResponse AA from Dunlop is the brand’s top technological product in the double “A” category (the top EU label class for rolling resistance and wet braking); it has been developed in 4 sizes, including the 205/55 R16 exhibited at the fair.

Derived from motorsports, the Azenis Fk453 and Fk453Cc for cars and SUVs, are the new UHP products from the Japanese company; they are joined by the recent all-terrain Wildpeak A/T At01 and the asymmetric Ziex Ze914 Ecorun in 10 versions (V, W and H) for mid-size vehicles, due to be increased to 70 by 2013.

GT Radial
The new UHP, the asymmetric Champiro Uhp1, is available in 43 sizes from 195/45 R15 to 255/35Z R20 with speed ratings starting from V-W. Another new addition is the Champiro Vp1, which promises both versatility and comfort: 28 sizes from 165/80 R13 to 205/55 R16.

The Goodyear EfficientGrip AA edition prototype will not be sold but will be the subject of various tests. The new development by Fulda, another of the group’s brands, was the EcoControl HP aimed at longevity and affordability, with 23 sizes for 15” and 16” rims.

Designed for compacts, saloons and sports cars, the new Ventus S1 evo² UHP has been selected as original equipment for the new BMW Series 3 and is at the top of the range; the line-up includes sizes from 17” to 19” in a technical series from /45 to /35 and with sections from 215 to 275.

Scheduled for next year, the new Ecowing Es01 will be in the double “A” class, at least for the 195/65 R15 size, and will be available in 21 sizes for rims from 14 to 16 inches; according to Kumho, it targets city and compact cars and offers particularly high mileage.

The subject of the most recent launch by Marangoni Car Tyres is the UHP asymmetric M-Power. It expands the range for sports cars and supercars with new sizes for SUVs. It also comes in a new 20” in ruby red for the Range Rover Evoque Hfi-R.

At the event in the form of a poster, the new Energy Saver+ is the fifth-generation of the French company’s best seller and will be available in 58 sizes for rims from 14” to 16” (44 of which in the “BA” class); the declared strong points are balanced performance and economic running costs, from consumption to mileage.

N'Blue Eco and N'Blue HD are the all-round tyres from the Korean company. One is more thrifty and the other is more sporty and they come in 49 and 34 sizes, respectively, for rims from 14” to 17” and from 14” to 16”; also showcased was the very recent UHP N'Fera Su1, for rims from 15 to 19 inches, and a version for SUVs, the Ru1.

Recently introduced is the Rotiiva AT, with an aggressive profile, wide grooves and a  central rib with stabilizers. It is the all-terrain that the Scandinavian company has made for SUVs, 4x4s and vans in 26 sizes, for rims from 15 to 20 inches.

The completely new Cinturato P7 Blue has the EU label’s double “A” class for 3 of the 11 sizes (14 by end 2012); it promises savings of up to 90 euros a year and shorter wet braking distances of 2.6 m at 80 km/h compared to a tyre in class “CB”.

Toyo gave body to its presence with the “eco” NanoEnergy 1 and NanoEnergy 2 tyres (“AB” and “AC” on the label), one is on the market in the 195/65 R15 size, the other is available in 11 sizes for rims from 15” to 17” and speed ratings from H to W.

The latest UHP from the Dutch brand is the Ultrac Vorti. At the top of the range, it comes in 11 sizes, from 225/40 ZR18 to 295/30 ZR20 with Y speed rating; it joins the tyre for mid-size vehicles, the Sportrac 5 also with an asymmetric tread pattern and 14 sizes from 185/55 R15 to 205/50 R17 with V speed rating.

Not the tread pattern but the continual expansion of the range is the new development from the Japanese company. The eco-friendly products in its portfolio include BluEarth-1, a top of the range tyre, and BluEarth AE-01 for mid-size and compact vehicles, now available in a bigger range of sizes.

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