AKRON-Driven forward by mankind's deeply seeded ``need to improve,'' the tire industry will continue to bring innovations to the marketplace during the next century, according to Michelin Managing Partner Francois Michelin, who addressed tire engineers during the Tire Society's 14th annual meeting and conference. Mr. Michelin spoke to about 150 engineers during the meeting at the University of Akron, March 21.
Today's tire is ``durable, dependable and efficient,'' he said, ``but it is not good enough. It is always too expensive and can always be improved.''
As a self-proclaimed ``researcher at heart,'' Mr. Michelin offered those in attendance a road map to where he believes future tire innovations lay.
``Clear-sighted vision will serve us well now and in the next century as the tire industry faces five major challenges in product. . . fuel inefficiency, flats, noise, inadequate comfort and prices that are still too high.''
Corporate, government and academic officials must overcome their preconceptions and allow engineers the freedom to test ideas, even if those ideas have failed in the past.
As an example, Mr. Michelin pointed to the use of silica in the company's Radial XSE energy- efficient technology.
``One (of our engineers) tried silica even though 50 years earlier it proved ineffective. . . Today, our energy tires incorporate a specially formulated silica as part of the new Radial XSE technology. . . a new person, a new process.''
New, unforeseen innovations will allow tire manufacturers to produce run-flat tires that are lighter, less expensive and have less rolling resistance, he said.
Similarly, new materials and production processes will enable manufacturers to make quieter tires that offer increased comfort while reducing production costs.
Outside the realm of engineering, Mr. Michelin said the nature of tire manufacturers' products necessitates they push for product liability reforms that will take some of the blame away from companies when consumer negligence is at fault.
``You and I work on a product that is a key component of vehicle safety. It is not a commodity. It is a technical achievement,'' Mr. Michelin told the attendants. ``I wish the vehicle manufacturers and the bureaucrats would understand that.''