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Exclusive Interview with Michelin North America

Smithers Rapra spoke with Tom Carter, Technical Communications Director, Product Marketing of Michelin North America, about the challenges and opportunities used tires bring to the industry and the biggest challenges facing the industry to date. Tom Carter will participate as a panelist for the Tire Manufacturers Panel as well as give a presentation Designing Out the Biggest Causes of Tire Failure - A Fresh Look at Used Tires

Smithers RapraMichelin has a lot of interesting new developments right now – can you give us a high level summary of what’s coming up?

Tom Carter: Michelin corporately is committed to paving the way to better and smart mobility.  We are organizing and promoting  “Movin’ On” a forum in Montreal which fosters interaction with scientists, entrepreneurs, visionaries, creatives and people from all walks of life to push us forward in our approach to energy and mobility. 

Michelin is an official sponsor for Formula E and RoboRace –These racing series are attractive to us because they are cutting edge, their technologies benefit the consumers, and they allow us to move from track to street.  From Formula E, we transferred technology to our PILOT® Sport 4S tire which we launched earlier this year and this tire is the benchmark for performance tires.  RoboRace is committed to advancing the state of autonomous vehicles which is cutting edge technology.  The robocars, which are completely autonomous, have to run through a range of climatic and road conditions and we will use PILOT Sport Cup 2 technology for their tires. Michelin will learn from the race, and transfer the technology back into the PILOT Sport Cup 2 tires next generations.

We will be launching the new Defender® tire line which simplifies the choices for the customer by combining T&H speed ratings.  Defender® will exemplify our product lines by providing the consumer with Long Lasting Performances for mileage and important safety performances such as wet braking.

On the BFGoodrich® side of the house we launched the Winter T/A® KSI in Canada and will launch the Advantage T/A® Sport LT.  BFGoodrich® is a partner with Red Bull – this accentuates our passion and our association with passionate consumers by partnering with a number of exciting Red Bull sporting events such as Crashed Ice in 4 countries and Wings for Life in 24 countries.

Our partnerships are exciting unto themselves, but they are carefully chosen so that we can funnel what we learn back into our products.

Smithers RapraYour presentation focuses on ‘used tires’ what are the challenges and opportunities for you as a Tire Manufacturer

Tom Carter: Our challenge as a manufacturer is to ensure that the consumer understands that tires, when used properly, provide an incredible and necessary service for mobility.  However, when tires are abused or misused, then they should be removed from service.  Lots of Tire Professionals understand and have safe practices with respect to tires.  Sometimes, quite frankly, their work is circumvented or even undermined by others seeking an opportunity sell product, despite its unknown condition or history.

We have a real opportunity to make mobility safer for our customers by addressing this situation.

Michelin’s recommendation is that used tires should be avoided.  Fundamentally, you can never know what hazards and abuse a previously owned tire has suffered.  For example, a previously owned tire may have sustained internal damage, which can lead to dangerous tire failures.  In fact, several states have recognized the unsafe nature of used tires and are currently considering legislation to ban certain used tires. 

We will discuss this more at the session.

Smithers RapraWhat do you see as the single biggest unifying challenge to the industry right now?

Tom Carter: The automobile industry is moving in two interesting directions simultaneously – autonomous vehicles, whether it be assisted or completely autonomous, and exceptional fuel efficiency, even in the larger vehicles.  The industry will have a real challenge to provide tires that are both fuel efficient and performant in all weather conditions so that the autonomous and safety systems still work properly and well.  Even manufactures that do not supply OEM’s will be implicated.  Legislation in the area of fuel efficiency is likely to follow and people buying replacement tires will want tires that work well in all conditions and that are compatible with modern safety systems such as Forward Collision Warning and Braking.

Additionally, with the recent scrutiny of the true emissions of vehicle manufacturers, tires as a critical component could see increased scrutiny with respect to adherence to fuel efficiency claims. 

In summary I would say providing highly fuel efficient tires that work well in all weather conditions and are integral to modern autonomous and safety systems will be an enormous challenge for our industry.

Smithers RapraWhat would you like to see in terms of new innovations and developments from the tire industry’s supply base?

Tom Carter: There are, of course, many, but I’ll just cite one interesting innovation that we would like to see further developed.  We are very interested in sustainable production of elastomers, or bio-sourced elastomers.  We see this as a sustainable source of elastomers with minimal impact on the environment.  We wouldn’t be exactly “growing” our tires, but it would be a step in the direction of “growing” the largest component – the elastomers.

Smithers RapraIn five to ten years we could be looking at a very different automotive industry, what are the implications for the tire industry?

Tom Carter: Of course autonomous vehicles are just around the corner and will impact the tire industry.  The model of for ownership is not really known, but it could be more fleet-oriented than like the current individually-owned or rented car.  Currently the people that manufacture cars do not own the vast majority of them, they sell them.  If, manufacturers become owners of these autonomous vehicles or ride sharing vehicles and provide mobility services, then they will own the entire package.  Their revenue and expense streams will be very different.  In our view, this is a scenario where long lasting performances of tires will become even more important. 

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

Tom Carter: I’m most looking forward to exchanging points of view and learning.  You know, our incredible ability to learn is a great gift, and I’m sure that the conference will be a wonderful environment for all of us to use and appreciate this wonderful gift.