Cutting edge tyre technology

Posted on 11 Aug 2009 by The Manufacturer

Proving their worth on the racetrack, Pirelli has secured its position as the producer of a world-leading range of performance tyres. In the general automotive market, the same resolve and pursuit of quality has ensured Pirelli’s representing the tyre of choice for discerning car enthusiasts.

An Italian job
Pirelli, the Milan-based tyre and cable producer, was founded in 1872 by Giovanni Battista Pirelli. With production focused initially on rubber and derivative processes, the design, development, manufacture, and market of tyres for motor vehicles, industrial vehicles, and motorcycles now represents the group’s core business, and has done for over a century.

Positioned as the fifth largest tyre manufacturer in terms of global turnover, and with consolidated revenue of EUR 4.6bn in 2008, the company’s products are widely considered to be the standard-bearer in sport and racing vehicles.

Accordingly, Pirelli represents the control tyre for, among others: the World Rally Championship; the British Rally Championship; the Superbike World Championship; and the British Superbike World Championship.

Within its tyre remit, production is split into two distinct operations: consumer and industrial. The former, representing 70% of total revenue, manufactures tyres for motor vehicles, SUVs, light commercial vehicles, and motorcycles – the latter for heavy trucks, buses, and agricultural machinery. With twenty four plants in twelve countries throughout the world, and producing 12,000 tyres per day in its UK factory alone, central to Pirelli’s success remains the performance of its tyre ranges. Supplying treads for both the prestige – e.g. Audi, Porsche, Jaguar, Mercedes – and SUV markets, the company continuously seeks to innovate across its entire output. Resultantly, the construction, performance requirements, and commercial viability of any one tyre is subject to considerable R&D processes, before being manufactured with the company’s advanced suite of robotic technology.

Unsurprisingly, Pirelli is no stranger to its products being recognised as best in class. For example, the company won the Auto Express Tyre of the Year Award 2009, rewarding those tyres capable of high performance across several disciplines, including: braking/handling in both wet and dry conditions; aquaplaning; and rolling resistance. Similarly, at the Geneva International Motor Show 2009, Pirelli tyres were fitted to the ‘ichange’, the first sportscar in history to reach 220 km per hour without consuming fuel derived from petrol oil. Arising from a collaboration between Pirelli and Swiss company Rinspeed, the vehicle is the first zero emission supercar, powered by a lithium ion battery.

Industry experts at the Geneva Motor Show also named the group as Best Tyre Manufacturer 2008 for its commitment to innovative materials and the research and development of ecological solutions for the automobile industry, as evidenced by partnerships with research institutes including the Silvio Tronchetti Provera Foundation and China’s Shandong University.

A sustainable future
Sustainability is central to Pirelli’s longterm group strategy, enabling it to best manage the social and environmental impact linked to its products, processes, and services. Announced in its industrial plan for 2009-2011, the group’s three year target is a transformation that will include both a focus on core businesses – Pirelli Tyre and anti-particulate filters of Pirelli Eco Technology – as well as striving to be a ‘green performer,’ including activity towards the development of products and solutions in the field of green economy. At the end of this period, the accumulation of ‘green’ revenues is expected to increase to about 40% of the total, as compared to the 20% seen today.

Immediately making good on its drive towards sustainable production, the company received a double award at the 2009 China Tyre Enterprise Summit, an event focusing on an eco-sustainable theme of energy saving and protection of the environment. Pirelli was awarded both the Summit’s most prestigious honour, with the Cinturato P7 being voted ‘The Best New Tyre of the Year,’ while its high range P Zero tyre won ‘The Best Ultra- High Performance Tyre.’ Further highlighting the scope of its twenty-first century strategy, Pirelli recently launched the first in a series of European motorbike ‘e-shops,’ enabling its customers to review the company’s online catalogue; select the appropriate tyre for the make and model of their motorbike to ensure the best fit; check availability; and place an order with Pirelli to dispatch the tyres to the customer’s nearest dealership.

Despite nearing a century and a half of production, Pirelli shows no signs of slowing down – quite the opposite, in fact. Indeed, with production unities recently opened in Brazil, Turkey, Egypt, China, and Romania, the company is set to maintain another one hundred years of automotive excellence by embracing the challenges of new technology that have remained central to its success.