Tyre services and the evolution of the business

Streaming music and video instead of ownership: connectivity and digitalisation are changing paradigms that were consolidated over more than a century. The same can be said of the automotive sector, and the evermore popular rental formulas, closer to subscriptions rather than traditional leasing, are proving it. The tyre business is increasingly focusing on services, considering data and products as solutions designed to establish lasting relationship, instead of “entities” only to be sold. Stellantis, for example, introduced its Mobilisight business unit to process anonymous data from the Group's connected vehicles, the results of which could be sold to external entities, providing a data-as-a-service business opportunity. The tyre sector is also interested in this paradigm shift and TaaS (Tyre-as-a-Service) formulas, operated by several industrial players, are already on the market.
An evolution brought about by telematics and digital services
The example of Stellantis perfectly represents the huge potential of digital services and mobile communication networks. The tyre industry as a whole, possesses a vast wealth of knowledge, built up over decades, and is able to provide adequate answers to today's fast-changing demands for mobility and sustainability. One answer to these demands is the Tyre-as-a-Service (TaaS) model, the result of a well-established and diversified use of telematic solutions for data collection and sharing. Data collected by advanced sensor technology, processed by advanced digital processors and sent to clouds via connected vehicles and platforms thanks to the pervasiveness of the Internet. The concept of providing tyres and associated services following a subscription model could result in significant direct and indirect benefits on safety and the environment and make the use of vehicles more cost-effective.
Positive implications
Etrma - European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturers Association believes that this solution has great potential to increase road safety, reduce vehicle emissions and even decongest urban roads. Consumers can already benefit from TaaS through microservices such as monitoring individual vehicles via apps or dedicated devices. Fleet managers, on the other hand, have access to complete packages that facilitate the creation of large monitoring platforms and services, powered by the vast amount of data generated by connected vehicles and their tyres. Has stated above, such data has the potential to increase road safety, reduce vehicle emissions and decongest urban roads capitalising on new digital services in all areas of mobility.
So much data, but is it accessible?
The Association does, however, sound a warning precisely about data: the advantages of a TaaS platform imply free access to vehicle and tyre data, even for third parties. The increasing “closure” of OBD diagnostic ports by several manufacturers, the only entry point currently accessible by third parties, does not seem favourable in this respect. Optimising TaaS requires a thorough understanding of all aspects for each application case, and this involves the availability, collection and processing of vehicle information as well as environmental and operational data. Etrma therefore calls on EU bodies for an industry-specific standard to regulate third-party access to vehicle data: a prerequisite for the development and implementation of advanced mobility services for the benefit of society at large.
Pirelli Care
An example of how a TaaS scheme works is Pirelli Care, a service intended for people, including those acting as sole proprietors, but excluding those operating professionally in the automotive sector (rentals, transporters, vehicle repairers and the like). The formulas available are Smart and Superior, with the former including a set of 4 replacement tyres, fitting, balancing and Tpms sensor reset. The Superior package adds roadside assistance and breakdown assistance, vehicle check-up, complete tyre set-up and vehicle sanitisation. Included in both is an extended warranty, which covers repairable and non-reparable accidental tyre damage, and it is possible to add EV recharging, manageable from a dedicated app, as well as seasonal storage. Based on the driving style and declared annual mileage, the duration of the service package and the fee, to be paid in monthly instalments, will be determined. The app “Your Driving Style” can collect and process data on a vehicle's speed, braking, acceleration and steering, assigning the user a profile between Eco, Comfort or Dynamic. This function uses data from the contract holder's smartphone and its processing is aimed at offering useful information to the user, replacing the driving style statement communicated when the contract was first activated with real data. As a reminder, Pirelli offers professional users its CyberFleet services, which Pneurama has already discussed in detail.
Tyre Services
Michelin, another global brand that has long understood the potential of tyres as a service and the value of data, couldn’t be missing from the list. Its fleet management offer makes customers' operations safer, more productive and sustainable through a variety of services designed for vehicle, tyre and driver management, and an all-in-one solution that includes electric light commercial vehicles, access to charging facilities and digital services. In addition, Michelin offers a complete management platform that combines tyre, maintenance and related services, leaving users more time for their core business. The French giant goes as far as offering fleet managers a connected services platform aimed at connecting fleets with workshops for regular and effective maintenance, besides the digital optimisation of maintenance services and business processes. The company’s vision is condensed in the Michelin Connected Technologies ecosystem, a set of tyre technologies developed by Michelin that communicate tyre information (pressure, wear, temperature, etc.) to private and professional customers to improve their mobility experience and reduce their environmental impact. This “ecosystem” is made up of built-in sensors that send real-time tyre data to a cloud via the vehicle’s own connectivity; algorithms and AI that analyse tyre and vehicle data; and, finally, local and remote interfaces that give information to drivers and fleet managers. A further development in the pipeline is a specific vehicle-tyre communication protocol aimed at tuning suspensions and trim or calculating with great precision the mileage of an electric vehicle. In this sense, the tyre becomes a service provider in itself, supplying useful services throughout its life cycle in a relationship that goes far beyond pure sales and generates useful information for all those involved.
Several other global manufacturers - Continental, Goodyear and Bridgestone, to name but a few - have embraced the TaaS philosophy. In conclusion, we would like to mention the case study proposed by Forrester Research, which illustrates an interesting synergy between the Japanese tyre manufacturer Toyo Tires and Tata Consultancy Services - Tcs, a software development and consultancy company and part of the Indian Tata group, a global industrial giant with interests in several sectors including automotive. The starting point was the realisation by the manufacturer that feedback from customers on the performance of its products was rather scarce. To change this, a strategy for digitalising tyre performance and maintenance was outlined and a Tyre-as-a-Service business model was defined and tested with several commercial customers. But before that, an evolution of the core business had to take place, using predictive modelling to develop and launch new value-added services regarding tyre performance. Resistance to change, rather common when great changes take place, was overcome by spreading a culture of learning and testing to stimulate innovation. An important step was the creation of a facility where the innovative initiatives, that drive Toyo Tires' digital transformation, converge. Again, an ecosystem was created to bring together Toyo's most innovative partners to facilitate the birth of a new business model. Last but not least was the creation of new skills in areas such as analytics, predictive modelling, data and cloud management. Becoming a TaaS supplier involved, for example, improving the data collection process, and the development of new tyre data sensing technology, combining its in-house expertise in tyre manufacturing and wear sensing with its partners’ data analysis and Ai know-how. As demanding as these steps were in their implementation, they do allow the brand to offer its maintenance solution to logistics company in order to estimate the condition of truck and bus tyres, developing a platform to monitor and predict tyre wear in real time. This application will be vital, for example, for the safety of future autonomous vehicles and can be therefore considered an investment for the future.