The UK tyre market is changing, with demand for high-performance tyres, 4×4 tyres, and innovative products such as run-flat tyres growing rapidly. Matthew Beecham talked with Goodyear Dunlop about winter tyres and run-flats.
Winter tyres represent just 3% of the UK’s total tyre market compared to 10% in the Netherlands and 50% in Germany. How is it that countries which share similar winter conditions to the UK, have achieved such a comparatively strong hold in the winter tyre market?
“Winter tyre sales have more than trebled in the UK in the last three years, but still represent a tiny fraction of the overall market,” said James Bailey, director, brand public relations, Goodyear Dunlop Europe. “Growing winter tyre usage, which will be a significant contributor to improved winter safety and mobility, is dependent on increased awareness of the benefits. In the Netherlands, drivers are realising that winter tyres bring benefits in any road condition under 7 degrees centigrade, not just in snow and ice. The increased usage there has been driven by awareness campaigns. In Germany, legislation has fuelled the growth in winter tyre usage.”
Perhaps the most dramatic innovation in tyre technology over the past decade or so has been the development of the run-flat tyre. Run-flat tyres are specially constructed enabling them to be driven on in the event of loss of air pressure. It means the driver can either drive home or to a garage to fix the tyre. Run-flat tyres allow a motorist with a puncture to drive the car up to 120 miles at a maximum speed of 50mph before repairing the tyre.
Comparing conventional and runflat tyres, we asked Goodyear if there were disadvantages in terms of weight and rolling resistance? Bailey pointed out that Goodyear’s latest generation RunOnFlat tyres have a range of features that enhance performance. “For example, a new rayon ply structure gives optimised usage of the ply reinforcement in both inflated and deflated conditions leading to better comfort and rolling resistance. Also, a new compression resistant component in the bead area reinforces the lower sidewall reinforcement giving optimum dry handling and enhanced runflat mileage. To address rolling resistance, we developed special low rolling resistance technologies providing rolling resistance levels better than many standard tyres. For example, the Eagle F1 Asymmetric RunOnFlat tyre for the Mercedes E-Class has the same rolling resistance level as the Mercedes E-Class approved standard Goodyear tyre and is better than competitor tyres approved on Mercedes E-Class.”
In terms of comfort, Bailey adds that some drivers could feel a difference when driving the first generation of run-flat products. “We took this feedback seriously developed the next generation RunOnFlat Technology which shows no difference in comfort, and this without any compromise on the tyre’s overall performance and RunOnFlat capability. Specific compounds with new formulations and construction improvements with new materials and a new internal tyre structure have led to this high level of comfort.”