Goodyear Eagle-360

A visionary tire concept for future autonomous vehicles

After 117 years of making tires, Goodyear has presented a vision of a future tire that looks radically different from tires today -it's a sphere. Goodyear unveiled its latest concept tire, the Eagle-360, at the Geneva International Motor Show. The spherical, 3-D printed tire highlights Goodyear's vision for the future and presents an inspiring solution for many years ahead when autonomous driving is expected to be more mainstream. The unique shape of the Goodyear Eagle-360 will contribute to safety and maneuverability to match the demands of autonomous mobility. The spherical shape of the tire is the key to delivering maximum maneuverability. The multi-orientation tires move in all directions, contributing to safety for passengers, as well as coping with the space limitations. Active technology allows the tire to move as needed to reduce sliding caused by potential hazards, such as black ice or sudden obstacles, so it contributes to staying on a safe path.

We also had the chance to interview both Olivier Rousseau, vice president of Goodyear's Consumer Product Business Unit for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA); and Carlos Cipollitti, general director of the Goodyear Innovation Center in Luxembourg.

AW: How do you describe Goodyear performance globally and in the MENA region?

Olivier: We are extremely pleased with the performance for the year 2015 and it's been a record year for us on a global basis: best earnings ever for the third year in a row, so what is very clear is that our strategy is working. We passed two billion in EBIT earnings and it was an increase of 18 percent. A lot of things to be proud of, clearly an outstanding year. And for EMEA, a more balanced performance despite the quite difficult economic environment and a quite difficult environment for us (from an exchange point of view), because we report our numbers in dollars. We are also pretty pleased with the progress and the performance.

AW: You mentioned strategy. What was the change in the strategy?

Olivier: I think that is a really interesting point, because the strategy did not change in the last five years. Almost five years ago we went public and disclosed our strategy and overall we are staying on track with what we announced. We made some very minor changes here and there in the last two or three years, but it is really working. That's what we are focused on.

AW: From a sales point of view, which is your biggest market in the Middle East?

Olivier: KSA is a very important one. But, we are extremely interested in further developing the business in the GCC countries. The main reason being, for us, if you look at the car park and if you look at the potential of growth of this region with Goodyear, we have a great interest in further developing the business. And, if you look at the way we look at the Middle East today, for us point number one on the agenda is growth overall. It's good for Goodyear globally, but it's also good for Goodyear in Europe and the Middle East and Africa, and we expect a big part of the growth to come from the Middle East and Africa, and specifically from the GCC.

AW: What is the rank of Goodyear among all other tire manufacturers?

Olivier: It depends from market to market. In terms of rank or in terms of net sales or awareness, we are in the top three manufacturers throughout the Middle East. Strategically speaking, we are in the top three in awareness and market share for the Middle East and Africa.

AW: Do you plan on any marketing strategy to penetrate the market more? Are you expecting more from the Middle East?

Olivier: Yes of course. First of all, we expect growth (and a lot of it) from this region, though it might not be fully in 2016, because of the oil price. All of that is short term, but we are not in the Middle East short term, we are in the Middle East for the long term and that's why we are really interested in getting all the growth. So overall what you will see, in terms of strategy, is focused on growth I would say, in mainly two segments. One, is everything that is 4x4 related, whether it is traditional 4x4 or SUV. Four weeks ago we were in the Middle East, and with our new president we decided that one of his first visits will be to the Middle East, and we spent close to a week there. And again, the main reason was to send the message, not only to the Middle East office, but to the whole Goodyear organization, saying I am going to the Middle East because this is where I am expecting that a lot of the growth is going to come from going forward. So, 4x4 SUVs are a big focus, and all the high-end vehicle segments, and all of the UHP performance cars are also something we are really interested in developing. And, here in Geneva for example, we are going in some cars to show that.

AW: So that is a clear message that you are going to the Middle East to make more profit in the region.

Olivier: Yes, we are going to the Middle East to clearly grow our business there, and again I have the benefit of having worked for Goodyear close to twenty years, and I was going to the Middle East already, fifteen years ago. We had a small organization at that time and were doing a little bit of business, mainly shipping containers to distributors. Today, if you go to Dubai you will see we have a bigger organization and a large office. We help our dealers develop their own business; we have a full sales and marketing structure. We have technical expertise also on the ground. So, overall just to tell you, it's not an office with one fax machine and two people answering the phone, it's a big, wide organization and we are present in each and every country also. For again, I think that says a lot about the focus we have on the growing of this business.

If I may add, based in Dubai we have support functions in terms of marketing, HR and supply chain. But, we are expanding (like in other strategic markets) and we have people in KSA, in Egypt, in Morocco and in Algeria. We are focusing across the region.

AW: We will get a bit technical. Mr. Carlos, can you tell me a bit about the pre-release tests on the tires. What do you test in the tire before releasing it to the public?

Carlos: A tire, before its release, goes for a series of tests, and they combine on the road lap testing and we have over 50 different characteristics that need to go over when a new tire line is introduced. Therefore, it's a series of evaluations that we do on the different types of conditions that the tire will be subjected to.

AW: How long do you put it on the road for testing before its official release? Is it based on kilometers or time?

Carlos: It varies, depending if it is a commercial or if it is a consumer vehicle, we do the testing. It could be in a specific road condition to evaluate noise, to evaluate comfort or to evaluate tread on temper roads. And, accordingly, the length of these tests will vary. This will give us an indication on what the mileage will be and what will be the longevity of the tire.

AW: Where do you see your niche market? When you decide on a new tire, do you go for performance, fuel saving, or braking distance? You can't combine all of them.

Carlos: It depends. Every product has a different application, has a different value proposition assigned to it. Therefore, depending on the market first of all, we have to adapt the specifications of the tire to specific markets and driving conditions. And also, what is the type of attributes of the tires we are going to be focusing on.

Olivier: As you can see, here we are surrounded with OEMs, so what we do also is that we adjust the tires for the needs of the vehicle. We have joint development with OEMs (like the ones we have here), and we tune the tires to their needs and what they are specifically looking after in terms of handling or cornering, and also to the needs of the vehicle. That is also something we do together with them.

AW: Do you foresee tires with sensors that can detect exactly what type of road it is on?

Carlos: Absolutely, if you look at what we are displaying today in terms of our concept and innovation, sensors is an integral part. We are introducing a new concept with sensors and we are working with sensor manufacturers. Today, sensor technology has already started to evolve. We can measure pressure, we can measure temperature. What we see in the future, is detecting the condition of the road and sending back the information to the computer of the car.

Olivier: The point of the sensors I see in two folds: it's not only, for example, to understand the type of surface the tire is on, but also what is the weather - is it raining or snowing, is there ice on the road - but also transmitting this information to the central computer system of the car and adjusting the suspension or the braking system, or for example, for autonomous vehicles, sending the message to the computer saying you are driving on snow, for example, and you better slow down and the car slows down automatically. That's the whole benefit of the sensor. Not only the sensor for the sensor, but also the sensor for the communication and connectivity to the computer of the car.

AW: So what are the expectations for 2016?

Olivier: In one word: growth. Overall, as a Goodyear tire global company, the commitment we took to our shareholders and to the financial market will be that we are going to, one more time, grow our earning 10 to 15 percent. After three years of records and growing our earnings in 2015 18 percent, we are saying that for 2016 we are committed to increase our earnings.

AW: Goodyear in one word?

Olivier: Iconic brand.

Carlos: Fantastic brand, innovation.

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