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Together in the name of retreading!

Hankook and BR Pneumatici


Hankook Italy and BR Pneumatici announced, during the last edition of Autopromotec, a recent agreement to introduce Hankook’s retreading concept to the Italian market 

Nicoletta Ferrini

The retreading business is currently experiencing a deep recession, but a market still exists and is even more sophisticated than in the past. If on the one hand, the growing number of "low budget" products now available has greatly reduced the competitive edge of retreaded tires, a greater attention to mileage turned retreads into a real strategic element in terms of fleet management. Not only the approach has changed, but also the type of customer for which this type of product still retains a certain "charm". These are, in fact, some of the most structured transport companies - the backbone of the national freight distribution – as well as large fleets of heavy duty transport vehicles that,  thinking on long-term efficiency, simply cannot ignore the benefits of a truly sustainable solution from both an economic and environmental point of view.

Looking at statistics, despite the recent down turn, the market  can still boast sales volumes in the region of 500,000 tires per year in Italy alone, making the retread option a solution with proven advantages. In economic terms, this means savings between 25% and 30% in purchasing retreaded products compared to a new quality tire, net of the eco-tax which is paid only in the latter case. Not to mention benefits to the environment: every year, in fact, the retreading sector postpones the management of nearly 26,000 tons of ELTs.

Yet, for the "magic" to works, the "conditio sine qua non " is an A1 quality casing that can be retreaded several times, giving the tire a second life or even a third, a fourth, and so on. Thus, premium manufacturers, such as Hankook, are called into question, especially if they aim to be a part of this segment.


A quality path with an exceptional partner

Present on the Italian market since the early 1990s, HANKOOK has consolidated its position in the country in terms of brand awareness and quality of its product with obvious consequences on sales. Now, then, it is time to propose, in Italy too, Hankook’s concept on retreads, already present in other European countries as Alphatread. "Over the last five years, our share in the Italian market experienced a double digit growth. Now we have to offer new services to compete on the mileage front, which is the real competitive leverage of this sector - explains Carlo Citarella, new managing director of Hankook Tire Italia. Now we feel the need to enhance, in the eyes of the sector’s professionals, and transporters in particular, our casings, which, incidentally, are considered to be among the best and most suitable for the retreading process". Hankook's choice to complete its offer with the introduction of a new truck retread simply confirms a widespread practice, adding the certification of its Alphatread brand.

To do this, Hankook has developed a small-scale strategy, but above all has identified an exceptional partner. "Our choice fell quite naturally on BR Pneumatici  - explains Citarella - because it is undeniably one of the most important Italian players in the retreading sector and because of our long standing relationship: BR Pneumatici has been our customer since 1993. In other words, BR Pneumatici will be Hankook’s retread "factory" in Italy: "we will deal with the commercial part, while BR will take care of operations, logistics and, of course, the retreading process", illustrates Hankook's Managing Director.


Two tread patterns and two sizes…to begin with

This business agreement between the two companies was announced in Bologna during the latest edition of Autopromotec (international biennial event dedicated to automotive equipment and aftermarket). However, the origin of the project goes back a long way: "we were among the first to market Hankook tires in Italy and we started working with them on this project about three years ago - says Loris Dalla Costa, head of BR Pneumatic’si Retreading Plant -. All the while we have been working on designing, collecting and analyzing a lot of data allowing us to start the year producing two Alphatread tires". Both tires have been specifically developed for the Italian market, with new tread patterns clearly inspired by two Hankook best-selling truck models, besides providing useful indications for future developments.

The first, Alphatread R-DH31, is an all-season drive axle tire, particularly suitable for medium and long distances. With its wide tread and anti-skid compound, this tire promises superior grip in both wet and dry conditions. In order to promote a more even wear when fully laden and a greater mileage, the Alphatread R-DH31 has also been equipped with a six-ribs tread with special hexagonal blocks. Finally, thanks to self-regenerating sipes, shoulder damage is reduced improving grip and performance throughout the tire’s working life. 

Hankook’s second offer, the Alphatread R-DM09, is also a drive axle tire, but designed for mixed road/off-road use and is therefore ideal for earth movers. The tread pattern enhances mud and water removal. The interlocking central blocks guarantees good driving performance and better impact distribution on the tread blocks, ensuring a longer overall tire life span. The slanting tread blocks increase resistance to lateral loads and effectively avoid excessive damage to the tire’s shoulder or the formation of cracks on the sidewall. "The 315/80 R22.5 is a very popular size. OTRs, due to their use, have a higher tread wear and are therefore normally subject to several retreading cycles", says Dalla Costa explaining the reasons for this initial production choice.


Trial tests with great prospects

The project as a whole is currently undergoing a "test" phase. The focus is not so much on sales volumes – even though, as Carlo Citarella admits, Hankook’s history in Italy makes it easy to assume that these will soon follow. The focus, rather,  is on the overall performance of the products and collateral services. For the time being, the offer is limited to Northern Italy and in particular the area between Lombardy and Triveneto, which traditionally constitutes BR Pneumatici’s reference market. Hankook Italia’s declared ambition, though, is to replicate the business model throughout the entire national territory.

For the immediate future, a third Alphatread tire size 385/65 R22.5 is in the making, which, along with the two already available, will meet 80% of the market’s demands in this specific segment.

"For the retreading sector, this is not the best of moments - says Citarella. However, the demand is rather well structured, which we believe to be able to meet thanks to our high-quality casings. On the other hand - Hankook Italia's MD concludes - the most recent increase in commodity prices is helping us: the competitive advantage expressed by "low budget" products has, in fact, been greatly reduced. This factor, added to a greater attention to the tire as a key element for efficient fleet management, and the widespread adoption of a circular philosophy, is re-evaluating the retread as a rewarding option for the  automotive sector".

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