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What do Consumers Want? An Interview with Brent Gruber

As the Traction Summit and co-located Carbon Black World events approach, we asked Brent Gruber to provide some insight into what he thinks are some of the most important things impacting the tire, rubber and automotive industry. His exclusive insights indicate just how valuable it will be to attend Traction Summit this year.

Traction: In your role at JD Power, you represent the consumer view and then translate that view into actionable intelligence for the industry. What are the biggest issues facing the tire and automotive industry?

Brent Gruber: In the automotive industry we are seeing a rise in consumer interest for safety related features and technologies.

Traction: Does this mean more tire pressure monitoring systems or smart tires or autonomous vehicles, or something else?

Brent: Well you have to look at the future in the context of the current state of affairs. In the automotive industry we are at a point where technology is rapidly advancing the overall product. The automobile as we know it will change dramatically with the introduction and acceptance of autonomous vehicles.

Traction: What do you think that means for tires and original equipment manufacturers?

Brent: Since there is such a rise in consumer interest for safety and the related features and technologies, I think that consumers understand the importance of the role that tires play in the safety of the vehicle. So as the focus on safety increases… so will the focus on tires.

Traction: We heard at Traction Summit 2015 that tires are one of the only things on a vehicle that has high brand recognition. Since there is such a great focus on safety, does that mean OEMs are not focusing as much on fuel efficiency?

Brent: OEMs are leveraging low rolling resistance tires at a greater rate in order to maximize fuel efficiency as the date for CAFE requirements nears.

Traction: So rolling resistance is still a big area of focus?

Brent: As the push to optimize fuel efficient tires increases, tire manufacturers will face the challenge of meeting these demands but without sacrificing any of the tires safety related performance (e.g. wet braking.)

Traction: There will be a great panel discussion on Tire Innovation (featuring Cooper Tire, Michelin, Goodyear, Pirelli, and Hankook) at Traction Summit… Should we plan to ask them how they balance safety and rolling resistance concerns?

Brent: Absolutely.

Traction: One final question - what excites you about the opportunity in the industry? 

Brent: The way consumers will interact with and utilize their vehicles in the future. It will be far different than the vehicles of today. I am very excited to see how these advancements will radically change the industry as we know it.

Hear Brent Gruber present on the Influence of Technology on the Future of Automobiles and Drivers at Traction Summit 2016.

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