TYRES: SAFETY AND EFFICIENCY UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT!
Geneva Motor Show 2016
A little less flashy than usual, the Geneva event was still rich in innovations and previews, with tires reflecting the current trends in the automotive industry: efficiency, safety and comfort, with an eye on the SUV market destined to grow further
The automotive market seems to have left behind many of its past concerns, but the 86th edition of the Geneva International Motor Show, held March 3 to 13, said that the industry is still showing some scars. This was evident also from the reduced the number of exhibitors, “only” 200 in 2016 from 30 countries, while three years ago the number of exhibitors was 260. It seems, therefore, quite logic that also the space dedicated to the event was reduced with a total of 106,000 square meters. On the other hand, the number of previews, one of the main features of the Swiss automotive festival, were still high: 120 of them in fact, from Europe as well as the rest of the world, drawing 687,000 visitors (0.7% increase compared to last year). As for the mood felt throughout the event, many agreed that the latest edition displayed a more "concrete and pragmatic” approach compared to past events, where the challenge was to present the most futuristic concept and product. Less science fiction than! Probably because nowadays sci-fi vehicles are already running on our roads with regular approvals, and many of the technical solutions that amazed us not long ago are now found as OEM or optional on many regular vehicles. Or perhaps, now that the trend in new registrations seems to be back in full health, at last, few manufacturers feel the need to challenge the public with a “long-term” vision of mobility.
The lower profile of the show did not take anything away from the great impact of innovation and quality, research and development that the Swiss Exhibition always has to offers. Besides the ever-present dream cars and prototypes, the industry’s careful eye on hot topics such as road safety, to be combined with energy efficiency is shaping almost everything that is being developed by the automotive industry. Tire producers, therefore, have the task of keeping up with the innovations looking at guaranteeing lower consumption along with greater safety, comfort and performance.
Road safety, for example, was the central theme for Bridgestone, which launched its DriveGuard Winter, the winter version of its popular run flat. Imagining future technical development ranging from passive safety systems (for example air bag) to autonomous driving, already looming on the horizon, the intermediate stage in the evolution of road safety is, according to Bridgestone, active prevention, in which tires can and must play a key role. Hence the commitment to develop run flat tires, the cross-section of which was displayed to show the structure and the characteristics that allow the tire to continue travelling even if damaged, avoiding the motorist the bother of having to stop in dangerous and difficult places to replace the tire. In addition, Bridgestone unveiled also two tires approved for the most innovative BMWs: the Ecopia EP500 ologic, OE on the electric i3, and the Potenza S001 for the i8 sports plug-in hybrid.
Large stand space also for Firestone’s return on the European market, with a new competitive and ambitious range of products designed to conquer the preference of a growing number of young motorists and for this reason has set its sight on the mid-range segment of the market counting on the support coming from the Parent Company. On display, the Firestone MultiSeason, with M + S and 3PMSF markings, as well as the Destination Winter, unveiled here for the first time, which will likely appeal to small and mid-sized SUV owners and an adapted version of the Winterhawk 3.
Pirelli, on the other hand, wanted more than anything else to emphasize its status as an industrial partner of many premium car manufacturers, thanks to the now more than respectable number of OEM approvals (2.200), and to its well-earned role of market leader in OE marked items for super cars. The launch of the new P Zero goes in that direction, though the primary concern for the Milan based company was to show all the approved tires currently equipping many of the most anticipated models of the salon: the Levante and the F-Pace, representing Maserati and Jaguar’s attempt to make a statement in the luxury SUV market, the Lamborghini Centenario, the McLaren 570 GT, the innovative Ferrari GTC4 Lusso, with an all-wheel steering system, the Pagani Huayra BC, a 1,000 hp forbidden dream, Italdesign’s futuristic GTZero, a ultra high tech luxury car, but also the spider version of the Audi R8 and the new 7 Series BMW.
Luxury and sports cars cannot overlook the development of “ad hoc” tires. Pirelli has clearly identified this trend making it the heart of its industrial and technological strategy, becoming the reference partner for the whole automotive industry. Dedicated technologies, processes and materials are the ingredients of Pirelli’s Perfect Fit strategy. Skillfully mixing these elements according to the needs expressed by designers and engineers, Pirelli develops tires dedicated to every specific car – whether the tire is a P Zero, Cinturato or Scorpion. To understand how rewarding the strategy is, we just need to mention that in 2015 alone Pirelli obtained, on average, nearly an approval each day.
Yokohama instead restates its ambition to establish itself as a global brand, and the recent sponsorship of the Chelsea Football Club goes in precisely that direction. Keishi Hashimoto, president of Yokohama Europe, unveiled three new products for 2016, ready to hit the market in July. The first, a world preview, is the Advan Fleva, a hi-performance tire designed to equip also compact cars, sedans and convertibles. Another world premiere concerns the Advan A052 which succeeds the sporty Advan A048. The A052, designed for use on racing circuits, promises great handling and grip in both wet and dry conditions. The tread design has been borrowed from the Advan A051T, used in many rallies in Europe. It will be available in 19 sizes ranging between 16 and 18 inches. Finally, the European preview of the new Geolandar A/T G015. Driven by the strong development of the segment, the brand dedicated to SUVs now boasts a new compound, and a new tread pattern, and aims to be a versatile product, designed for use on all types of terrains and in all weather conditions. The available sizes range from 15 to 20 inches. Hashimoto does not forget to recall the commitment of Yokohama on environmental issues, pointing out two distinct fields of research: on the one hand the weight reduction of the tire, represented by a concept tire 25% lighter compared to traditional tires thanks to special technology, the first of which should be unveiled in the near future, while on the other, aerodynamic developments continues, the result of which was the “fin design” (fins on the tire’s sidewall) able to reduce drag by 3% and the vehicle’s lifting force by 30%.
The new marketing campaign #ROCKTHEROAD 2016, with the participation of DJ Hardwell and racing driver Carmen Jorda as testimonials, is the evident demonstration that Apollo Vredestein is focusing on a young public, turning the spotlights on the new Vredestein Ultrac Satin, launched here in Geneva. This UHP tire also promises driving pleasure coupled with performance, energy efficiency and low noise levels. Furthermore, the 24 inch Vredestein Ultrac Vorti was also presented. Characterized by a special tread pattern for both front and rear axles, the tire is available in sizes ranging from 295/30 R24 to 355/25 R24 and is tailor made for the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe. No previews for Apollo, though many models were on display especially the Alnac tire range, including the latest all-season, the 4G.
Concept tires and futuristic designs are Goodyear Dunlop’s bread and butter, which - in addition to launching important models such as Dunlop’s Sport Maxx RT2 and Goodyear’s Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 – revamps the futuristic mood so typical in the Swiss salon, thanks to two very advanced prototypes. First the IntelliGrip, which updates the prototype tire with built-in chip (Chip-in-Tire Technology) introduced in 2014, which embodies Goodyear’s mobility vision for the year 2025: designed to support the control systems of autonomous vehicles thanks to advanced sensors, will be used to develop the tires of the future. Thanks to its advanced built-in sensors, the IntelliGrip is able to detect the weather conditions and the road surface. The special algorithms developed to monitor and control tire pressure and temperature can optimize the vehicle's control systems thanks to the interaction between the sensors and the on-board computer.
Second, and even more futuristic, the Eagle-360 concept, designed for cars in 2035: the tire is a sphere produced via a 3D printer and connected to the car through magnetic levitation. The tire is designed to meet the needs of new autonomous vehicles, which, according to a recent study by Navigant Research, by 2035 will be 85 million worldwide. The spherical shape of the Eagle-360 is designed to provide maximum agility, thanks to multi-orientation that allows the car to move in all directions providing greater safety for passengers, reducing slippage over wet and icy roads as well as overcoming sudden obstacles without changing direction.
Now, putting our feet back on the ground, let us take a closer look at some of the models on display.
The All Season Alnac 4G is among the products featured at the Apollo stand. Developed by the Indian group in its Global R&D Centre in the Netherlands, this premium tire has an asymmetric tread design and stands, even in appearance, as an intermediate product between a summer and a winter tire; its low weight, along with its low rolling resistance, reduces fuel consumption and consequently CO2 emissions. The Alnac 4G All Season is available in sizes ranging from 15 to 17 inches and the sidewall displays, both the “M&S” and “3PMSF” symbols.
Bridgestone’s DriveGuard Winter, expands the run-flat range with a winter product and like its summer counterpart is characterized by reinforced sidewalls, polyester plies and Cooling Fin technology which reduces the heat generated following a pressure loss, thus preserving the integrity of the tire, capable of running for a distance of 80 km at a maximum speed of 80 km / h in case of a puncture. The manufacturer declares excellent performance on snow and ice and huge wet grip thanks to its NanoPro-Tech compound and tread pattern designed on the award-winning Bridgestone Blizzak LM001. Available from April in 11 sizes (in addition to the 90 summer sizes), for 15" and 17” wheels, thus able to equip most vehicles with TPMS.
Sport Maxx RT2 is Dunlop’s new UHP summer tire, and like its predecessor, the Sport Maxx RT will probably appeal to racing enthusiasts. The manufacturer highlights the tire’s grip and steering precision as the strengths of this tire using an innovative tread compound made with resinous rubber; the shoulders are wider, for enhanced grip while the tread blocks are designed to guarantee lower braking distance compared to its predecessor, especially at high speeds. 47 sizes make up the complete range, from 17 to 21 inches, 80% of which have been available since March.
Winter Destination represents Firestone’s winter proposal for the growing SUV segment, two years after the launch of the summer Destination HP. The tread pattern matches the design of the Winterhawk 3 upgraded to suit the larger dimensions of this range. Thanks to its tested tread design and its innovative NanoPro-Tech™ compound, Destination Winter earned a “B” rating on the European labeling system for wet grip, and according to the manufacturer, it’s the safest tire in its class currently available in Europe. Firestone’s Destination will be available in Europe from May 2016 in 13 sizes for 16” or 17” wheels, able to equip most mid-sized SUV models currently on the road.
Goodyear unveiled in Geneva its new UHP summer tire, designed for saloons and sports cars: the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3. Active braking technology is a fundamental characteristic of these tires, which produces a larger contact patch and consequently huge grip reducing braking distance in both wet and dry conditions with the aid of the new Booster Grip compound too. According to Goodyear, the new reinforced structure, improves steering response and speed cornering, consistent tread wear and fuel economy. The new Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3, available from January 2016 in 41 sizes from 17 to 20 inches.
The new Pirelli P Zero, launched in Geneva, has been developed for three different segments. For vehicle with a sporty attitude the tread pattern - approved with Ferrari – has less sipes and therefore able to promote a more dynamic behavior of the car. For large sedans the second tread pattern has an outer shoulder with deeper groves designed to absorb any impact on the ground, providing the comfort required by these models. Finally, the more aggressive, P Zero Corsa, designed for a competitive use and approved by McLaren, which closely resembles its slick Formula One "cousin". On the market from April, the new P Zero has an innovative structure designed to transfer vertical forces, and thanks to the PNCS (Pirelli Noise Cancelling System) represents a great leap forward in terms of rolling noise reduction.
Vredestein too, chose the Swiss kermesse to launch its summer UHP tire, the Ultrac Satin, designed for top of the range cars and SUVs. Labeled in class A for wet braking, C / B for rolling resistance and low external noise level (71 dB), the Ultrac Satin is available in sizes ranging from 16 to 18 inches, with speed codes W and Y, the 20 inch will be available later this year. Exclusive resins and “z” shaped sipes improves traction, ensures grip and handling on wet roads, whilst the low rolling resistance and a consistent grip on wet surfaces have been obtained by optimizing the tread design. Soon available a DJ Hardwell signed version, available in size 225/45 R17 Y at selected Vredestein dealers only.
Yokohama strategic offer, the ADVAN Fleva V701 is clearly a racing-inspired tires, which is also able to address the needs of more traditional and less exiting compact cars. 4 deep longitudinal grooves on its directional tread pattern and numerous lateral grooves which help to expel water, enhance the tire’s wet grip. In dry conditions, cornering is made easier thanks to the stiff tread blocks on the shoulders guaranteeing great lateral grip. According to Yokohama, ADVAN Fleva V701 will not wake the neighbor up thanks to Nano Blend Compound technology (enriched with oil extracted from the peel of citrus fruits) which also limits the rolling resistance. Available in a wide range of sizes: 24 at first, to be expanded to 40 by 2017.