Continental Tires to focus on intelligent tyre technologies for CVs for growth
The premium German tyre brand may be small player in India, but has strong presence in aftermarket.
The Indian aftermarket size is estimated to be around 29 million units for Passenger Vehicle tyres, and 17 million for Medium and Heavy Commercial Vehicle tyres. This is where German premium tyre maker Continental Tires wants to up its game. Instead of chasing volumes, the company will focus on innovative technologies that can make tyres safer under tough Indian operating conditions. According to Samir Gupta, Managing Director of Continental Tires India, and Head of Central Region BA RE APAC, the estimated annual growth for the PV aftermarket tyre segment is 3-4 percent, and 5-7 percent for CVs respectively.
Gupta says that the tyres sold in India have been specifically developed with the help of its R&D centres in Hanover, India and Malaysia and that they are not sold anywhere else.
Continental India’s product portfolio has been developed according to the market trends. In the last 11 years, the percentage of radialisation of tyres has moved up from less than 20 percent to close to 50 percent. Using a step-by-step approach, the company started with the products for the construction segment and then moved into normal segment which is more of long haulage tyres and then into tubeless tyres.
Its CrossContact range of tyres are doing well in the passenger car segment and its SportContact 5 range has been upgraded to the next level and marketed as PremiumContact 6.
In 2020, the government had imposed restrictions on tyre imports and that has encouraged several tyre makers in the country including Continental to invest and make befitting products.
The recent addition are the CrossContact H/T (Highway Terrain) range for SUVs. CrossContact H/T tyres are made at the company's ModiPuram plant in Uttar Pradesh and are available for rim sizes ranging from 15 inches to 18 inches. These tyres have been meticulously designed and developed specifically to meet tough Indian operation conditions, says Gupta.
Focus on future technologies
The company is looking at making Commercial Vehicle tyres safer for Indian operators. A demonstration of such possibilities was done at the Track Day event near Chennai.
CV tyres with sensor-based technologies were on show. “It’s not a separate tyre design and it is meant only for tubeless tyres. The sensor-based system has been developed by our automotive arm, says Gupta. The idea is to bring more safety aspects to the commercial vehicle segment on Indian roads. CV tubeless tyres are fitted with a sensor inside the tyre casing and these sensors can offer information on temperature, pressure and mileage (how many kilometers the tyre has already done. “This gives a lot of empowerment to fleet owners to know about the tyre health condition, where the tyres are on the axle and moving on the road. Fleet owners sitting remotely in the office can know all these details from real-time data. Besides getting real-time data, all these sensors also support the fleet owners to increase the tyre life by almost 20 percent and increase the fuel efficiency of the system, adds Gupta while adding that this was the first of its kind application in the country.
As part of the future forward strategy, Gupta says the company will strengthen its aftermarket CV offerings and not rush into over ambitious targets. Gupta hinted that Continental plans to launch a new range of CV tyres, between Q1 and Q2 of this year with properties like better mileage and low wear. Although no specifics were shared, Gupta is confident of achieving double digit growth for the business.
Track Day for CrossContact H/T tyres
Continental Tires organized a day long Track Day event at the Wabco India Proving Ground in Tiruvallur, Tamil Nadu in the first week of January. The event was curated to test the recently launched Continental CrossContact H/T (Highway Terrain) range of tyres for SUVs.
The cars offered for the day were SUVs fitted with the CrossContact H/T (Highway Terrain) and included models like the Toyota Fortuner, Mahindra XUV700 and a few Hyundai Cretas.
At the Track Day event, Gupta said that the rubber compounds and structure of the CrossContact H/T tyres factored-in various road and mild off-road conditions and are specially reinforced to prevent casing damage and therefore can handle the daily challenges of a passenger car, crossover or SUV comfortably. They have been formulated to offer good grip, low noise, low rolling resistance and strong performance characteristics, he added.
For the Track Day event, the test track area was divided into three zones wherein various dry/wet tests were carried out. The dry zone included high-speed braking tests of large SUVs like the Toyota Fortuner and the Mahindra XUV700 to ascertain the grip and stopping distances on them. In this exercise, the run up speed attained was 80-90km/h with marker cones for hard braking manoeuvres. While the stopping distances varied between the Toyota Fortuner and the Mahindra XUV700, however, it was not the cars that were the subject of focus, but the ability of the CrossContact H/T tyres under these exercises.
Likewise, on the wet track, the nimble Hyundai Cretas were used for the demonstrations with the cars travelling up to 50 km/h in a straight line. The hard braking by drivers didn’t ruffle the car and it remained quite composed and the cars felt really good on the brakes, with only a small amount of ABS intervention.
During the tests, none of the electronic safety aids like ESP, Traction control were switched off or disabled. The highest day temperatures were reported to be 30◦C and most of the testing was done between 4.00-6.00pm, so working the environment was cooler and the laps didn’t impact the tyre pressures that much.
The third exercise was an autocross set-up with twists and turns to help understand and feel the dynamic performance of the tyres and the Hyundai Creta proved to be the perfect vehicle for this exercise.
Lastly, on the track, a longish unhindered drive was also permitted to allow drivers to experience the cushioning and road noise characteristics of the tyres in the SUVs.
While the multi-purpose tread pattern on the CrossContact H/T tyres are capable of handling the daily driving challenges on-road, these multitasking tyres have added “grip teeth”, that is small protrusions in the tread grooves that offer the necessary grip on non-asphalt or loose gravel surfaces. “With the multipurpose pattern, low road noise, and improved tread life, the product greatly fulfils Indian drivers needs and ensures a safe and comfortable ride across various Indian terrains,” said Gupta when the tyre was launched a few weeks ago.
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