Pirelli S.p.A. is making a serious push in the commercial tire business, budgeting $120 million over three years to raise truck tire capacity worldwide and adapting its automated MIRS tire manufacturing technology to the production of truck tires.
Pirelli, which considered selling its commercial tire business in the mid-1990s, reported 9-percent growth in truck tires last year to $983 million, which represents 29 percent of the firm's global tire sales. The business, which is active in Europe, South America and the Middle East with production and sales companies, has grown 16 percent in the past three years.
Pirelli does not sell medium truck tires in North America.
To help it keep pace with its major competitors in the commercial tire business, Pirelli has started using elements of its MIRS (Modular Integrated Roboticized System) tire manufacturing technology in producing truck tires.
The first such product, the FH85 Amaranto truck tires-designed for touring buses and coaches and heavy vehicles for long-range transport-feature spiral-wound tread, zero-degree belt overlay and bead wire that impart greater uniformity, which are made possible by the MIRS technology.
``The Pirelli Amaranto results from a phase of `cross-fertilization'...of the MIRS process,'' said Francesco Gori, managing director of Pirelli's tire sector, based in Milan. Pirelli said developments in structure-made possible by the latest innovations in the areas of materials, compounds and steel cord-have led to the Spiral Advanced Technology for Truck, or SATT, development.
Pirelli puts the global truck tire market at more than 100 million units a year, with 85 percent in replacement sales and the rest in original equipment supply. More than two thirds are now radial-ply tires, Pirelli said.
The group's data show Asia-with China in the forefront-accounting for more than 40 percent of global sales of these tires, followed by Europe (21 percent), the Americas (30 percent) and Africa/Middle East (9 percent).
Against this backdrop, Pirelli has half its truck tire sales in South America and half in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Pirelli said it feels it has an optimum truck-tire manufacturing set-up: only 20 percent of production is at its Settimo Torinese plant in Turin, Italy. The rest is in countries with high market growth-at Santo Andre in Brazil, Izmit, Turkey, and Alexandria, Egypt. These four sites make more than 3.5 million truck tires a year with about 4,000 employees, Pirelli added.
As well as a substantial truck tire business in Europe and Latin America, ``we recently consolidated our presence in Egypt, where production is slated both for the promising North African/Middle East market and for Europe,'' said Alberto Pirelli, director of the truck tire business unit.
``The next step will be further reinforcement in the markets of the greatest growth,'' he added.
While Pirelli did not specify where such investments would be, the company offered data indicating that China is the major market for heavy vehicle tires.
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Pirelli S.p.A.'s truck tire biz
* Budget: $120 million over the next three years to raise truck tire capacity.
* Results: A 9-percent growth in its truck tire business in 2003, to $983 million-representing 29 percent of its global tire sales.
* First product: FH85 Amaranto truck tire for touring buses, coaches, heavy vehicles for long-range transport.
* Manufacturing process: Some elements of its Modular Integrated Roboticized System (MIRS).