Innovation is the combination of high performance tires and qualified personnel
We talked about it with Claudio Zanardo, CEO of Pirelli Italia and its network of specialist dealers.
Quality alone may not be enough to guarantee competitiveness. In a hi-tech world, providing customers with adequate and professional assistance is the key to gaining greater market share and successfully position a brand. And this is precisely where Pirelli’s Driver service network decided to invest in, a strategy that has, so far, prompted Claudio Zanardo, CEO of Driver-Pirelli, to look to the future with confidence.
Driver is an important European tire network, how is it structured today?
"Driver is a network of Pirelli dealers specialising in tires and other car related services, now present in eight European countries (Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Greece, Spain and Finland) with over 1,000 points of sale. Our headquarters are in Milan, and has several facilities, professionals and resources dedicated to each European country, in order to best meet the different needs of consumers in the countries in which Driver operates".
Can you tell us more about the network’s presence in Italy and its future goals?
"Driver has more than 440 specialized centres in Italy and plays a vital role in supplying timely tire and car related services, meeting the different needs of all types of vehicles and offering end customers a 360-degree service program. Driven by values such as professionalism, transparency, reliability and competence, Driver Italia has, for the last 26 years, been providing points of sale with dedicated teams entrusted with carrying out the company's strategy assisting the entire network in identifying the right facilities, designing the retail centre’s layout, managing and developing the business, as well as managing software systems within our points of sale, staff training and communication. However, our goal, as always, is to prepare our partners to respond to the needs of the market as well as the customers, who are becoming increasingly informed and demanding".
In your opinion, is the tire business’ future linked to diversifying the offer? And in this case, how do you help traditional tire dealers to innovate and diversify?
"We consistently focus on our clients: anticipating and understanding the needs of consumers is what lies behind their satisfaction. The customer finds in a Driver centre a reliable specialist, able to respond to all his needs in a single solution. Not just a workshop: every Driver subsidiary is a place where innovation takes place, a versatile centre where technical know-how, customer care and many years of experience can be found, along with a 360° offer that allows motorists in general to enjoy driving their car without the slightest worry, while still maintaining a strong focus on the tire business. Attention to detail, customer satisfaction, combined with the best possible service for your car are the cornerstones of the network’s day to day work. Driver specialists are ready to welcome and help all drivers and provide useful advice on how to get the best out of their car, as well as offering all the know-how, innovation and range of tires one would expect from Pirelli”.
What is the ultimate offer that Driver has reserved for its dealers?
"Dedicated training. Driver embraces every aspect of our business. Through traditional and new marketing strategies as well as a close collaboration with our suppliers, we can support the retailer along a path of continuous growth. The network’s dealers distinguish themselves by being particularly attentive and pro-active in taking advantage of new technologies which, on the one hand are aimed at carrying out an ongoing process of digitization, and on the other they facilitate the transfer of Driver’s know-how to each individual store”.
Has the network signed partnerships with leasing companies?
"In recent years, the car market has been moving towards a different form of ownership, with a significant growth in rentals and leasing. Driver has always been looking at taking advantage of such market trends and today our partners are able to boast many agreements with leasing companies and fleet management companies, both nationally and locally. Hence Driver affiliates are in the position to offer their expertise to all motorists and companies, offering a complete, quick service, also through software designed to manage orders for tire replacements on leased cars".
As far as products, what are the group's guidelines?
"Driver has always been customer-centric, and for this reason throughout the network one can find the best products available on the market, first and foremost the entire range of Pirelli tires, including winter and All Season products. All of Pirelli's technology and innovative drive find their ideal place within the Driver network, where experts have been trained to manage tires specifically designed and approved for some of the most prestigious car manufacturers in the world. All drivers are sure to find a specialist in a Driver Centre who can advise them on the tire that best suits their needs, in terms of quality, performance and safety".
Now turning to the market, what macro trends is Pirelli detecting?
"Well, much of what was predicted in recent years, about market trends, are being confirmed. The latest trend, in terms of new registrations, with a significant growth in the number of SUVs and crossovers in all segments, is visibly changing the National circulating fleet and as a result is the tire market is called upon to address these trends. In particular, this has produced double-digit growth in the high-end segment of the tire market throughout 2018, both for summer and winter product, and we expect it to be repeated in 2019. The current transformation is also changing the market in terms of diameters, in fact large wheels up to 20”, rose from less than 10% in 2012 to more than 15%, especially in the 18-19” plus market segment which in 2018 alone exceeded one million units sold, while the market for wheel under 14” fell for the first time below 4 million units".
How is Pirelli following the hi-tech boost currently affecting the automotive industry?
"Customisation is the path we must follow, always looking at creating new and ground-breaking products. Being focused on high-end goods requires the ability to offer tailor-made products, both to motorists and to manufacturers. Basically, it means, designing specific tires for specific vehicles, always starting from the manufacturer’s requests. First we receive a so-called target letter which highlights our objectives, then our engineers and designers work concurrently with the development of the car: it takes up to 3 years of work, 180 models and 3,000 prototypes to create the perfect fit. The current challenges related to the path chosen by the automotive industry brought tires to play an increasingly central role. In the last couple of decades sophisticated electronic equipment required the highest design precision, and now we are moving faster than ever: manufacturers are asking us to embed more and more sensors in our tires, to collect the kind of data that only a tire can provide. For over ten years we have been working on refining these sensors, expanding their potential along with software able to process all the info detected from the road. Soon, cars will be able to "understand" the road, calculate the amount of the grip, anticipate problems and trouble-shoot on-board systems such as Abs or traction control. Of course, electric cars are another important subject, even more than ICE vehicles, as they requires silence on board: even in this case we are second to none. Our PNCS technology, for example, has doubled the number of requests in one year and the 150 approvals achieved at the end of 2018 have been exceeded".
What development guidelines is Pirelli following?
"Pirelli's investments go in the direction of consolidating its leadership in the Premium and Prestige segments, where we account for over 50% of all OEM. Our R&D division (6.5% of all 2017 revenues were invested in this division), in fact, has teams dedicated to designing and developing perfect fits together with the manufacturers and, at the same time, other teams work on specialties required by premium and prestige manufacturers. At an industrial level, our NextMirs technology (Modular Integrated Robotized System), Pirelli's proprietary fully robotized technology for the production of Ultra High Performance tires ranging from 19 to 23 inches, is used in various plants, including the one in Settimo Torinese, Pirelli's flagship, and allows a production flexibility applicable to even the smallest quantities of tires, reaching the goal of using an industrial model that not ensures not only high performance quality, but is also effective, flexible and quick. Pirelli is determined to continue pursuing this strategy, which is confirmed to be the best one, given that the high-end market is growing more than other market, as our sales network also confirms".