LABELLING OPPORTUNITIES AND RISKS
ASSOGOMMA PRESS CONFERENCE ON TYRE LABELLING
From 1 November 2012 it will be compulsory to label tyres in accordance with three parameters: rolling resistance, wet grip and noise. Assogomma director Fabio Bertolotti talked about this during a press conference for the presentation of the new regulation
IT'S CONFIRMED. As envisaged by regulation EU 1222/2009, from 1 November tyres sold in the European Union must be labelled. The regulation applies to all tyres made after 1 July 2012.
Since 30 May 2012 it has been possible, but not compulsory, to display and sell new tyres with the famous label.
The label shows a 7-letter scale that goes from the best performers (A, green) to the worst (G, red) for rolling resistance (and therefore fuel efficiency) and wet grip, plus a measurement in decibels for external noise levels. It’s something like the energy classes that have been applied for some time now to refrigerators and washing machines.
This and much more was discussed during the press conference on labelling held by Assogomma in Milan on 23 May.
In other words, the sale of tyres is changing. Undoubtedly to the advantage of less expert consumers who, understandably, have always had a few problems with coping with the codes and information that always come with tyres (“one of the most highly regulated product sectors”, said Assogomma director Fabio Bertolotti). Manufacturers/producers must either apply the label to the tread or include it with the relevant production batch, but above all they must always tell customers what the label contains and means. The way they do in household appliance shops.
In the case of tyres, undoubtedly the approach is not just ecological but more integrated and aimed at increasing tyre safety and efficiency. And when all is said and done, it should help buyers to choose the best product that is not only the correct size for the vehicle, but also corresponds to their real usage requirements. Even though they will have to find a compromise in the end.
But this won’t be anything new; it is simply the recognition of something that has always been a fact. “It is difficult to imagine a tyre with two ‘As’ in addition to a low decibel rating, because excelling in one aspect means giving up something in others” Fabio Bertolotti explained.
With the technology that is currently available, a tyre with an A rating for wet grip or a short stopping distance is unlikely to have A-rated rolling resistance with no affect on fuel efficiency. It’s either smooth or it grips!
One of the most important aspects on the label is value for money. The label will indicate the parameters simply and clearly while protecting, on the one hand, the technological heritage of manufacturers with the longest tradition and experience and, on the other hand, pointing out to the user the lower quality of tyres offered at give-away prices.
“I am totally in agreement with the spirit of this regulation but, unfortunately, the label is a self-certification by the manufacturer” Bertolotti said. There is no independent body that can assess the results. As Juvenal said: “quis custodiet ipsos custodies?” (who will guard the guardians?). The label is a kind of “gentleman’s word” that everyone (competing manufacturers, retailers, customers) must trust blindly, like it or not. This is why the entire supply chain, the healthy one, hopes there will be controls.
There are other aspects that should also be monitored. For example, by its very nature the label lays itself open to incorrect use or even counterfeiting. It is, therefore, necessary and desirable to set up as quickly as possible a control mechanism for preventing infringements that could damage consumers as well as manufacturers of quality tyres and retailers. “Tyre labels benefit consumers as their choices will be oriented by certain objective elements in addition to those normally taken into consideration during the buying process”, Bertolotti said. “But this new development must be combined with an effective control of the market by the relevant authorities. A lack of controls will encourage fraud and the sale of non-conforming products to the detriment of end-consumers, honest manufacturers and the technological effort that has been put into improving economic and environmental efficiency and road safety”.
All tyres made after 1 July 2012 for cars, light and heavy commercial vehicles are subject to labelling. The labelling does not apply to tyres for motorbikes, retreaded tyres, off-road professional tyres, tyres for temporary use, tyres for racing and other specific categories.
What the label says
Rolling resistance and its effect on fuel efficiency (less resistance means better performance) is shown on the left of the label in the standard energy efficiency pictogram used throughout the European Union. Efficiency is measured in a scale from A to G, where A is maximum tyre performance with zero increase in fuel consumption, and G is a tyre that could increase consumption by up to 7.5% (and more in the case of heavy vehicles). It must also be remembered that lower consumption also affects CO2 emissions and general vehicle running costs.
The wet grip measurement is shown on right of the label and gives consumers information about grip on wet roads, an important aspect of tyre safety. Tyres with excellent grip reduce the distance required for a vehicle to stop. Here, too, tyre grip is measured in a scale from A to G, where A is maximum and G is minimum. In practice, the difference in stopping distance between A and G can be 30% (for a vehicle braking at a speed of 80 km/h it can be reduced by about 18 metres).
External rolling noise
External noise is shown at the bottom of the label and is measured in decibels represented by three black sound waves. One sound wave indicates the best performance, which means that the noise level is at least 3 dB lower than future legal limits.
The “Pneumatici sotto Controllo” website includes a section with detailed information about the new regulation: www.pneumaticisottocontrollo.it/etichettatura.html
What to do
• The information for each type of car and commercial vehicle tyre must be made available as printed technical promotional material and on websites
• The producer or importer can either apply a sticker to the tread of the tyre or include a label with the delivery of a batch of tyres for retailers and end-consumers
• They must ensure that the sticker is visible on the tyres or that the label is clearly visible in the immediate proximity before a purchase is made.
• If the tyres offered for sale are not visible to end-users, retailers must provide them with the information given on the label before and after the sale is finalized.
• The information on the label must also be included in the proof of purchase, the receipt, invoice, etc., or in a special document included with the invoice.
Stocks of tyres that do not have the information given on the label may be sold after 1 November 2012 provided that they were made before 1 July 2012.
• They must declare the class of tyres fitted on vehicles if they are not original equipment.
• If customers are offered the possibility of choosing the tyres, they must be given the information on the label before the sale is finalized.
• If different rims proposed as an optional are fitted with tyres that are identical to original equipment tyres, it is not necessary to provide the information given on the label.
• Tyres today and tomorrow. A meeting with Fabio Bertolotti (Assogomma)
Fabio Bertolotti (52) is the director of Assogomma, an association he joined in 1983. Since 1945 Assogomma has united Italian manufacturers of rubber articles, not just tyres, therefore, but also seals, waterproof coverings, compounds, adhesive tape, conveyor belts, transmission belts, condoms and medical devices, tubing.
However, tyres are a very important part of Assogomma’s activities given that it represents 100% of Italian production (Michelin, Pirelli, Marangoni, Bridgestone, Trelleborg and Vega) as well as important multinational companies (Continental, Goodyear and Yokohama).
Assogomma is the ideal place for a global view of the present and future of the world of tyres, sales of which continue to grow year after year, unlike the car market and the economy in general.
“The increase in tyre sales can be linked to the slowdown in vehicle sales”, the director of Assogomma explained. “In other words, instead of buying a new car, owners prefer to pay more attention to maintenance and tyre renewal in order to prolong the life of a vehicle that doesn’t have a lot of miles on the clock”. Retailers who aim their commercial proposals in this direction could find fertile ground among vehicle owners, especially with the approach of the summer holidays.
It is difficult to say whether the positive trend of the Italian tyre market in recent years will continue in 2012. “The market is very complicated and characterized by a public that is highly apprehensive and fairly reluctant to buy” said Bertolotti.
This is why manufacturers are paying ever-increasing attention to certain segments, like winter tyres and probably also to high and very high performance tyres. Although the winter tyre market is far from saturated (but it’s probable that users with older or smaller vehicles cannot afford to have two sets in times like the present), “reasonable de-bureaucratization could encourage some users to fit more high performance tyres (such as light tuning) and continue to support the changeover tyre market” Bertolotti explained. “The Ministry has done a good job in this sense. On the whole, I am optimistic about the future and confident that we will have good news”.