Vredestein Tires North America Inc., hoping to expand its dealer base in the U.S and Canada, has rolled out the first of two new product lines this year: a high-performance and designer winter tire, the Wintrac Xtreme.
Metuchen, N.J.-based Vredestein, which incorporated Jan. 1 in Delaware as a subsidiary of Dutch tire maker Vredestein Banden B.V., debuted the Wintrac Xtreme to tire dealers at a ride-and-drive event Jan. 25-27 in Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci. The Wintrac Xtreme is Vredestein's first winter tire with a W speed rating, and ``for winter tires, that's unique,'' said Michiel Kramer, Vredestein's market development manager.
Both Mr. Kramer and Vredestein Sales Manager Al Smoke described the Wintrac Xtreme as a combination of fine engineering for snowy weather conditions and an attractive appearance developed by European automotive designer Giugiaro Design. Giugiaro-which has designed the Lambourghini Gaillardo and Alfa Romeo Visconti-had partnered with Vredestein before in the design of Vredestein's Sportrac and Ultrac tires.
``You may call it a marriage of form and function,'' Mr. Smoke said of the partnership with Giugiaro. ``Form being the distinctive design created by Giugiaro and function being the ability of the tire to perform under the conditions for which it was made.''
The Wintrac Xtreme, first introduced at last year's Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas, now is available to dealers in 13 sizes to fit 16-, 17- and 18-inch rim diameters and in V and W speed ratings. It gradually will replace Vredestein's Wintrac line, Mr. Kramer said.
At the recent driving event, Mr. Kramer outlined for dealers the Wintrac Xtreme's features, including:
* A tread pattern, sipe technology and maximum contact area that create grip on snow;
* Flexibility through its special silica compound that remains flexible at low temperatures;
* Aquaplaning resistance through its contour design, footprint and W-shaped tread pattern with three longitudinal grooves;
* Handling and high speed on dry roads through its zig-zag, shoulder siping; and
* Low noise level.
Vredestein equipped the Wintrac Xtreme's tread blocks with approximately 2,000 sipes-almost all perpendicular to the driving direction, Mr. Kramer added. The sipes multiply the shear edges, clamping in the snow and improving grip, he said.
Stephen Heil, manager of Tires Unlimited Inc. in Dayton, Ohio, said he was ``absolutely impressed'' with the Wintrac Xtreme's cornering and stopping ability during the driving event, which took place after a heavy nighttime snowfall and with daytime temperatures at a frigid minus 17 degrees Fahrenheit.
``I'm very pleased with their quality, the standard tire they produce,'' Mr. Heil told Tire Business. ``I feel it's comparable to any major manufactured tire in the world.''
In explaining the tire's compounding to meet high-speed requirements, Mr. Kramer said the application of disulphide silane as a binding catalyst enables higher mixing temperatures and a longer mixing process, which gives the tire improved water dispersion characteristics.
The Wintrac Xtreme is a premium product that will fit luxury sports cars and European cars such as BMW, Audi, Saab, Mercedes and Volvo, Mr. Kramer noted.
Though the winter tire selling season now is more than half over, Mr. Kramer said Vredestein launched the Wintrac Xtreme in late January so that it would be fresh in tire dealers' minds when they place their snow tire orders in March and April. Vredestein also wants to expand its dealer network and is working on a marketing and advertising plan not only for the Wintrac Xtreme, but for all its lines, especially a sport-utility vehicle tire to be introduced in April, he said.
Reaching tire dealers is the first priority, he added. Among the ways the company plans to do that is with new products and by tripling its booth size at this year's SEMA Show.