Four seasons in a day on Sicily for Pirellis new Cinturato

Four seasons in a day on Sicily for Pirelli's new Cinturato

We have quite a conundrum sat here in the north west European outpost of the UK, looking at our Continental cousins undertake the twice-yearly dance involved in changing tyres as the seasons come and go.

New boots for winter, new boots for summer and they all have to be stored and managed in a way quite unfathomable to us Brits with our North Sea island bathed in a supposedly temperate climate, although it certainly doesn't feel exactly tropical now, looking out of my window at the frozen wastes of February.

Below 7°C has long been thought of as the tipping point where winter tyres start to merit their star billing, but although we undoubtedly have spells of those temperatures, the mercury really doesn't plunge consistently enough at those nether regions to warrant special shoes.

But Italian manufacturer, Pirelli, has taken a look at the UK and believes it has identified the British Isles as one market that could be ripe for its new Cinturato All Season tyre, which I saw put through some pretty tough paces recently on Sicily.

The Italian island is strongly associated with warm weather and it's true down on the coast, it reached a balmy 14°C last week (29 January), but the looming presence of Mount Etna and its snowy peaks, gave Pirelli the chance to showcase four seasons in one day, while also soaking a racetrack half-way up to simulate wet weather.

Winding up from the warm shoreline to a visibly smoking Mount Etna, past a lunar landscape of huge charred boulders thrown up by the periodic eruption of lava at the near-11,000ft summit and the All Season tyre was swiftly obliged to cope with heavy snow. And just to make sure we got the message, the Italian tyre producer had arranged for us to go off piste on to some deep-lying white stuff replete with several icy patches to show off its Cinturato handling.

A marketing ploy for the Cinturato is clearly aiming at traditional markets such as Italy and Germany, but as Pirelli general director of operations, Gregorio Borgo, said at the launch event near the Italian town of Taormina, the UK is also very much in the supplier's crosshairs.

"We have an opportunity because the UK is not really a seasonal market," says Borgo. "Even the UK, we can sell it successfully. Then, we are going to enlarge to Eastern Europe, to the Balkan area, to Poland and to Turkey, but in the second phase."

Now it's clear this tyre is not for Lamborghini drivers. Pirelli is quite open, that for such performance vehicles it still recommends winter and summer boots, but for urban city-dwellers who don't experience seasonal weather extremes and perhaps second car owners with low mileage, it believes it can attract a new audience.

"I go skiing every weekend and I want to have the right shoes - but if you are living in the city and you are using the car for a few kilometres a day I think you don't need to have a such specific tyre and you don't want to go to a tyre dealer," Borgo tells me.

"Our recommendation is to keep fitting summer [tyres] in the summer season and winter in the winter season, but we have an emerging group of tyre users, who need the tyre 365 days a year."

There's the rub. If you can possibly avoid going to a dealer to change your tyres, well, that's ideally what you'd like to do and if your chosen vehicle isn't a Ferrari 458 but more of a Volkswagen Golf, then this tyre might do the trick, particularly as it is also winter legislation compliant.

And to ram home the convenience aspect, Pirelli will provide a Cinturato variant using its 'Seal Inside' technology, meaning the tyre can withstand foreign object damage up to 4mm in diameter, with the hole self-plugging.

Now such ease of use is not simply provided gratis. Pirelli is already attaching a 20% premium to the Cinturato standard model, while for the Seal Inside variant, it will charge EUR365 (US$417) for a set of four compared to EUR330 for the more basic product.

But despite that slightly elevated price perhaps Pirelli does have one almost intangible element to its make-up which smooths over any anxieties consumers in the UK - or its other target markets - may have.

It's Pirelli. The very name oozes Italy and has a certain cachet other tyremakers can try and emulate, but they have to do it without that ingrained shorthand we in Northern Europe perhaps associate with the South.

Think Ferrari, Peroni, Lamborghini, Prada, Gucci, Campari, Zanussi, Lavazza et al, they all feature in the top 100 or so famous Italian names where one company at least, ranks Pirelli as number 14.

That's quite an impressive feat for a tyre producer and might even sway that second car owner or urban low-mileage driver, who might not be versed in the minutiae of mechanics, but who knows the power of such an iconic brand when they see one.

But how do you convince UK consumers of the need to change tyres in any case, even with all-weather claims and puncture-free driving?

Many on this side of the English Channel resolutely view tyres as a distress purchase, so maybe Pirelli will cash in some of that Italian cachet and launch an advertising campaign to persuade us Brits its year-round boots are the way forward.

Anecdotally, I put my car in recently for what is known in the UK as an MOT (Ministry of Transport - test - mandatory for vehicles more than three years old - mine certainly qualifies on that front) and the independent garage told me I needed a new tyre.

We didn't have a discussion about it, it was just replaced and that was that, but maybe in general, consumers could have a least a two-minute conversation about tyres with an independent operator that goes beyond the recently-introduced European Union labelling guidelines.

That might suit the all-weather products a lot more. For those with basic knowledge and whose time-poor lives mean they need a broad overview, that compulsory MOT, or its European equivalent, might be the moment to talk tyres.

Gregorio Borgo describes the utility of his product: "You can have a jacket that you can have all year," he says. "It is not a matter to be lazy - it is a matter you have other priorities.

"At the end of the day it depends from customer to customer - if you want to make it simple and not complicated."

Pirelli notes the All Season sector in Europe is growing with a yearly expansion rate of double digits forecast from 2013-2018.

The manufacturer might have just hit on something in the UK which could be ripe for development of an easy to use - and readily understandable - product - which just happens to arrive replete with some pretty classy Italian heritage as standard.