YOKOHAMA'S FIRST 100 YEARS
Product, market, but also environmental awareness and ongoing research. These are just some of the goals of the Japanese giant ready to celebrate its first centenary.
Not many Asian companies, active in the field, can boast a hundred-year-old history. This is the primacy achieved by Yokohama Rubber which opened its doors way back in October 1917, laying the foundations of the company we all know today.
A stage to be celebrated, as part of the Grand Design 100 program, by the 31st of December, a ten-year old declaration of intent that includes the achievement of specific growth targets. For Yokohama, though, this means more than mere sales volumes and turnover, although the company’s commercial expansion over the years cannot be denied (with a total revenue forecast of 770 billion Yen); in fact, the parent company sought to establish itself as an environmentally friendly brand with ecologically sound production methods, zero emission industrial plants as well as large-scale social and environmental projects. “Forever Forest”, the best example of this, is an initiative to plant half-a-million trees around the many factories scattered all over the world.
ITALY UNDER THE MAGNIFYING GLASS
One cannot deny that special attention is being paid to the European market, real blessing and curse for every tire manufacturer. If, on the one hand, strict EU regulations and European motorist’s high demands in terms of performance require increasingly advanced technology, on the other, the higher quality of current tire ranges, as well as those to come, and the competition with the most prestigious players in the industry are driving the company on its quest for improvement.
The Italian market is certainly no exception, and is catered by Yokohama Italia, which, with its annual turnover of 40 million Euro and sales volumes in the region of 600,000 tires in the car segment alone, currently holds 3% of the national market shares, 5% in both hi-performance and winter segments and 8% as far as SUVs and 4x4s are concerned.
“Yokohama is one of the most innovative companies in the UHP segment in the world”, says Roberto Pizzamiglio, Marketing Director at Yokohama Italia, “recognized by its customers as an exciting, sporty and technologically advanced brand, with high performance tires comparable to the main players in the market”.
The A008P, a company milestone in supplying hi-performance tires to some of the most popular sports cars back in the 90s, is a classic example of this. Its casing boasted a wrap-around cord with no overlapping joints and a unique tread pattern even by today’s standards. For this reason, the A008P obtained a prestigious approval by Porsche for a number of its models. The A008P is now ready to get a second chance in a revisited and upgraded version, for vintage sports cars, to be launched some time during the year.
“We often talk about performance, technology and prices”, continues Pizzamiglio, “neglecting the safety aspect, which is one of the most important for a tire. As the only point of contact with the road, tires have always been entrusted with the task of carrying passengers around in total safety. The tire is also subject to the intervention of tire specialists, dealers who are entrusted with the proper installation and maintenance of these products, an expertise that deserves to receive greater recognition but is far too often sacrificed on the altar of cost reductions. We suggest to rely on a specialized tire center to guarantee the proper functioning of the entire wheel unit”.
A COMPLETE RANGE
A dedicated forum was organized, specifically for the press, at the Franciacorta race track last March. The presence of Yokohama’s staff, and the surprise visit of Angelo Magri (founder of Magri Gomme in Carpenedolo, which provided the groundwork for the birth of Yokohama’s Italian branch) and Mr. Satoshi Kanamaru, Yokohama Europe Sales & Development Manager as Guest of Honor, provided the fireworks to the launch of the company’s latest tire model, the BluEarth-Es, an entry level range for a young and dynamic clientele driving city cars and mid-sized sedans. A new summer tire produced with eco-friendly technology, using a compound created using by mixing a citrus-based oil additive able to guarantee high elasticity and durability. Safety and comfort are guaranteed by a five pitch tread pattern for lower rolling noise and reduced uneven wear, with deep longitudinal grooves supported by lightning grooves for improved water displacement. The long life cycle and fuel efficiency are certified by the European C rating for rolling resistance and a B-C rating for wet braking depending on the size, not to mention a 68dB-only noise level. The range of the new BluEarth-Es will be expanded during the year to include 13 to 18 inch wheels, with aspect ratios from 70 to 40 and widths between 175 and 235 mm. Road tests were followed by track tests, where the latest model of the Advan family, the Fleva V701, was put through its paces. Launched last year, the Fleva is destined to equip compact sports cars. In this case, a directional tread pattern with claw grooves, supported by lightning-shaped grooves, greatly improve water displacement, while wide sword grooves placed on the shoulders guarantee greater stiffness of the tread blocks facilitating driving precision even at high speed.
We certainly did not spare ourselves on the Franciacorta race track pushing the tires and the 381 hp available from the Mercedes A45 AMG used for the test to the limit, yet the feedback was always intuitive with a smooth response, slight side drifts through corners even at high speed. The V701 range boasts a C rating for energy efficiency and E in rolling resistance, A for wet braking and a noise level between 67 and 69 dB. Wheels range between 15 and 20 inches, aspect ratio from 55 to 30%, widths between 195 and 255 mm. with V and W speed codes. Obviously, an off-road test could not be missing, with the top-of-the-line Geolander A/T G015.
A short off-road route behind the wheel of a Nissan Navara highlighted the traction qualities offered by the tires sharp grooves despite guaranteeing more than adequate grip also in the presence of mud and water. Four main grooves facilitate liquid displacement, letting the new compound with orange oil extracts the responsibility of ensuring sufficient elasticity at low temperatures. The whole G015 range features winter approvals as the M+S and 3MPSF markings testify. This make the Geolander suited for most uses, from summer to winter, on and off-road thus satisfying with a single product the widest mobility needs and requirements for SUVs, off-road vehicles, 4WD pick-ups with 15 to 20 inch wheels.