In this interview, Matthew Beecham talked with James Bailey, director, brand public relations, Goodyear Dunlop Europe about tyre market trends, tyre pressure monitoring systems as well as some significant technical advances the company has made with runflat tyres.

just-auto: As we understand it, 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? And can the UK look to them as a working model?

James Bailey: Absolutely. 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.  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.

To what extent has the proliferation of tyre sizes embracing aspect ratios, wheel diameters, tyre width and prescribed use complicated the replacement tyre market?

The tyre market now requires a very sophisticated supply chain. The variety of tyre sizes and specifications on sale has been driven by the increased diversity of the vehicle parc. Take the average company car fleet which ten years ago would have been dominated by Mondeo-sized saloons. Now, premium super-minis, compact SUVs, Crossovers, 4x4s and sports cars are just as likely to be on a company fleet and they all have specific tyre requirements.  

A number of new tyre regulations are being rolled out in Europe, including those relating to rolling resistance, tighter controls on chemical substances, labelling, noise emissions and wet grip. But have the regulators overlooked something … the standardisation of the runflat tyre?

Goodyear Dunlop are at the forefront of RunOnFlat tyre development and believe that this will be standard on ‘tyres of the future’. The legal requirement to have TPMS on new cars from 2012 onwards removes the barriers to fitting RunOnFlat tyres as an aftermarket fitment. Also, the new generation of electric  and hybrid cars require space for battery packs – and the spare wheel well is a logical place to put them.

Comparing conventional and runflat tyres, are the disadvantages in terms of weight and rolling resistance decreasing when we look at the most recent designs?

Our 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, how do the latest generation of runflats compare with conventional tyres?

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.

The current generation of RunOnFlat is equal to standard tyres in terms of comfort, confirmed by the TUEV test [see below]. Mercedes-Benz confirmed this when approving Goodyear RunOnFlat tyres for the luxury and very comfortable new E-Class. This is a major breakthrough for RunOnFlat as it means that virtually no car manufacturer needs to tune the car suspension or chassis in order to fit RunOnFlat tyres.

TÜV SÜD Automotive conducted a test of our latest RunOnFlat tyres recently. The results are impressive and confirm our leadership in this segment. Overall, Goodyear RunOnFlat tyres performed equal or better than the tyres without runflat capability. More specifically, the test showed that the latest RunOnFlat tyres offer:

  • 13% lower rolling resistance;
  • 3% shorter braking distance on wet road;
  • 1.5m shorter braking distance on wet road; and
  • 3% better handling performance on wet road.

The results also show that Goodyear RunOnFlat tyres performed as good as tyres without runflat capability:

  • in dry braking;
  • in dry handling and provide; and
  • in comfort, confirmed by subjective as well as objective measurements.

And of course, the tests also confirmed the 80km capability of the RunOnFlat tyres in deflated condition.

It has been almost 40 years since the first commercial launch of the runflat car tyre (the Dunlop Denovo).  Yet the runflat remains expensive which, I guess, reflects its higher level of technology and performance.  Would you agree?  How do you see the roll out of the runflat amongst car segments?

In 2008, Goodyear Dunlop supplied RunOnFlat tyres to Audi for its A3, A5, A6 and TT models. Mercedes-Benz has equipped its A-, C-, CLS, CLK-, SLK, GL, E- and S-Class with RunOnFlat tyres. Owners of a Ferrari 360 Modena, F430, a Maserati Quattroporte or Jaguar XK could drive tyres with Goodyear’s RunOnFlat Technology, as could owners of a Ford Galaxy, Mondeo or an Opel Astra or Corsa. The range of models equipped with Goodyear or Dunlop RunOnFlat tyres is wide with over 100 new projects in the pipeline with more than ten automobile manufacturers.

Going beyond that, the future looks brighter than ever because two drivers for a major adoption are addressed:

1) Due to technical innovations, the comfort level of our new generation of Goodyear RunOnFlat tyres is comparable to regular tyres. Car manufacturers do not need to adjust the suspension or chassis of their cars to be able to mount tyres with RunOnFlat Technology.

2) With the EC type approval regulation 661/2009 passing, making a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) mandatory on every new car as of 2012, the European legislator gave a clear signal that Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems are important and necessary for consumers. In the near future, all cars will be equipped with a TPMS and can be fitted with the new generation of RunOnFlat tyres. Hence, RunOnFlat can truly become the standard.

Does the NHTSA and EU labelling requirements regarding tyre efficiency ratings suggest that the motorist will be made aware of rolling resistance performance?

Goodyear Dunlop welcomes the labelling system because it is convinced the label will guide customers towards safer and more fuel-efficient tyres. With the introduction of a standardised label for tyres, it becomes easier for end-users to compare brands, giving them the opportunity to make better informed purchasing decisions. Taking into consideration that the rolling resistance level gains importance as the element of choice because of its economic and environmental benefits, Goodyear Dunlop also believes that the new label will help customers make fully-informed purchasing decisions that also address aspects which have an important impact on road safety, such a tyre’s wet performance. We are pleased the label also focuses on this important safety factor.