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Exclusive Interview with Fiat Chrysler

Mitch Hicks, Tire and Brake System Specialist, Advanced Development Engineering at Fiat Chrysler, a panelist at Traction Summit 2017, recently shared his insights on the tire industry and how innovations within the industry will affect tire selection. 

Smithers Rapra: Thanks for joining our panel – can you introduce your role and responsibilities at FCA?

Mitch Hicks: My role at FCA is specifically derived in the interface between the virtual and physical vehicle development. I work with tire suppliers, and also various 3rd party test houses to characterize and objectively specify tire targets for future vehicles. I also own the process for obtaining MF, SWIFT and F-Tire models throughout the tire and vehicle development. 

Smithers Rapra: What message do you want to get across to the tire industry this year?

Mitch Hicks: Having suppliers and test houses step up to the plate to provide quality data, and being flexible to improve the procedures for data collection. Having correlated vehicle models is truly dependent on the tire being captured properly. 

Smithers RapraHow are FCA’s responses to wider automotive industry trends impacting tire requirements?

Mitch Hicks: Vehicle character. Stringent guidelines for safety and emissions can really wash out the flavor of a new vehicle development. At FCA we focus on delivering the character that customers expect from the brand. Managing the tradeoffs associated with meeting greenhouse gas and fuel economy can be a challenge! 

Smithers RapraWhat performance features are most important for you when assessing tires?

Mitch Hicks: Steering and ride can really define the character of a vehicle as soon as you begin driving, although striking a balance of performance most important aspect of a tire development for an OE. For example, with our more aggressive RRc tire developments, we need to deliver acceptable performance to the customer in other areas such as wet stopping distance, and tread wear. Managing these tradeoffs is what really defines a competent vehicle off the line. 

Smithers RapraHow do you expect your tire needs to change over the next 5 years?

Mitch Hicks: The blooming fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards are driving more PHEV, and EV vehicles. Rolling resistance is obviously a priority, although often overlooked – Ride and Noise. An IC engine does a great  job of producing broadband noise, and masks the tire. With more EV’s coming, I can estimate a higher level of focus on addressing tire noise, and how those loads enter the vehicle. 

Smithers RapraHow will autonomous vehicles effect tire choice?

Mitch Hicks: Although tires are some of the last systems on the vehicle to become “active”, characterizing the tire performance using SWIFT and F-tire models will become a very powerful tool in autonomy for virtual validation. Fully autonomous vehicle systems need to understand tire capability to enable safe decision-making practice. 

Smithers RapraWhat are you most looking forward to about the conference?

Mitch Hicks: Learning! Getting a deeper understanding in the topics being discussed and networking with others in the industry can almost always open my eyes to new opportunities for innovation here at FCA. 

Register today to hear Mitch Hicks during the  OE Panel Discussion at Traction Summit and more!