April 1, 2011: Pierre Cohade
Goodyear's Asia-Pacific chief was in Mumbai recently to launch the company’s green Assurance Fuel Max tyres in the Indian market. He spoke to Hormazd Sorabjee.
What is your outlook for the Assurance Fuel Max range of tyres?
This product brings to India something that car buyers want. This is a tyre that will pay you back through fuel savings. After an average usage of about 40,000 kilometres, they will save you between 30-50 percent of the cost of buying them. It is a very safe tyre with superior grip, and is made of Kevlar which is five times stronger than steel; this makes it suitable for India’s roads. With this tyre, one will be able to drive it, on an average, 15 percent more and save four percent fuel.
You have launched 15- and 16-inch tyres but some of the largest-selling cars in India are shod with 12-inch or 13-inch ones. Will we see smaller-sized tyres with this technology in the future?
We have targeted the mid- to upper size segment at the moment for cars like the Volkswagen Polo, Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. Going forward, we may introduce a 14- inch tyre in which the technology is embedded but will not go below 14 inches.
The new tyre uses Kevlar, which is expensive. How have you managed the cost aspect for customers here?
The technology that we have been able to develop and the advanced materials used have ensured that we give you safety as well as fuel savings and longevity. So if you look at one of the trade-offs, it is higher costs but those have been minimised because we have been very focused on creating a very efficient manufacturing process. We are trying to be as competitive as possible in the market.
So is it right to say that you are trying to achieve cost efficiencies from the manufacturing process and not from the material costs, which are much higher?
I am pushing our manufacturing director to ensure that we are going all out on this. One of the things that we are doing is constantly work on energy re-utilisation and our manufacturing department is focused on this. We recycle all waste, have improved our energy efficiencies in manufacturing, and continue to make new strides in productivity.
Given that motorists and roads differ in India and Europe, how do you come up with, let’s say, a one-size-fits-all tyre?
I don’t think there is a tyre that fits all. We have different products aimed at different applications. High-performance tyres are for very demanding applications but if you look at the fundamental requirements of consumers, safety is at the top. So one first looks for a safe tyre; then it has to last long because one does not want to go back to the store every 20,000km to replace it. Finally, if possible, a fuel efficient tyre.
Is the key to better tyres more synthetic material like Kevlar and less natural rubber? Is that really the way forward?
With Assurance Fuel Max, we have a very advanced manufacturing process. Moreover, we have used very advanced methods and advanced polymers which enabled us to achieve this. The tyre is made incorporating specific manufacturing techniques. We offer a combination of design and advanced manufacturing process.
As regards the Indian market in general, what is your outlook on India?
We are very excited about India. We have been here since 1922 and are no newcomers. Clearly what is happening today in India with the explosion of the middle class, is that the increasing modernisation is very favorable to industry, and to Goodyear because we can start deploying in India what Goodyear is known for outside India. In recent years, we have made significant investments in our manufacturing site at Ballabgarh. I am impressed with the kind of energy levels and the speed at which the factory is becoming a world-class facility.
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