French tire maker Group Michelin is looking beyond its traditional market. It has formed a partnership to take it into the suspension system business, and is seeking global supply opportunities for noise, vibration and harshness damping components.a sister publication of Tire Business, talked to Philippe Verneuil, president of worldwide strategic business unit, wheels and suspension systems, at Michelin.
Edmund Chew, a staff reporter with Automotive News Europe, a sister publication of Tire Business, talked to Philippe Verneuil, president of worldwide strategic business unit, wheels and suspension systems, at Michelin.
How is the wheel business developing?
The global business is stable. The European and North American original-equipment wheel markets are roughly equal at about 80 million units each.
In North America, wheel sizing already centers on 15-inch dimensions. There is growing availability of larger sizes—16-inch wheels and above—particularly for top-of-the-range alloy fitments.... (W)e are seeing more large-sized alloy wheels. In North America, alloy penetration is already at or above 50 percent.
Is there a move toward outsourcing (of OE wheels)?
Currently, of about 80 million fitted passenger units, car makers handle 60 percent themselves. There is clearly considerable room for outsourcing. In North America, Ford has recently outsourced internal production of steel wheels.
How fast will tire-wheel systems be incorporated into corner modules?
We envision coordination rather than integration. Obviously, all components must work together. At Michelin, we will continue our efforts to create tire-wheel systems that complement the functions of the other components.
How is Michelin's AVS (anti-vibration system) business developing? What's behind your links with Germany's Woco and France's Vallourec?
In Europe, Michelin is a player in suspension anti-vibration parts. We aim to continue supplying complete suspension systems, derived from our expertise in the vehicle field and from our knowledge of rubber.
Through our cooperation with Woco, we are currently establishing a worldwide presence to help car manufacturers pursue their platform development strategies in the field of anti-vibration units and NVH (noise, vibration and harshness).
How are you responding to new developments?
Through internal growth and by developing alliances and cooperations with the best suppliers whose expertise complements our own. For example, we are able to offer constructors a rear axle subassembly (the axle plus shock absorbers, torsion bars and anti-roll bars) designed and built in partnership by Michelin and Vallourec. This offers packaging improvements and cost reductions of up to 30 percent.
What do these developments mean for your business?
The potential for change is vast.
... (The new Pax run-flat) system opens up new possibilities for a closer coordination of technical elements in tire-wheel anti-vibration systems. It also opens up new design possibilities.
Car makers are also forcing changes. Most want suppliers with a global supply chain and global expertise. We believe this is going to require partnerships and alliances aimed at satisfying customers' priorities and not just supplying one piece of the puzzle.