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Nitto aiming new NT90W studless winter tire at crossover vehicle market

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SALT LAKE CITY—Nitto Tire USA Inc. recently unveiled its NT90W winter tire during a winter ride-and-drive event for media held at the Miller Motorsports Park in Salt Lake City.

Nitto said it is targeting its studless winter tire at crossover vehicles, but it also has fitments for SUVS and passenger cars. The NT90W features what the tire marketer said is a “distinct design”—a dual tread design with both asymmetric and cross-rotational features.

“On the inside and outside it has...slightly different compounds for acceleration and braking,” said William Hong, marketing analyst and project coordinator for Nitto.

He noted the exterior part of the tread features a winter handling compound, whereas the interior section of the tread has silica built in for improved winter traction.

“This (interior) also has a lot of circumferential grooves because you're driving through snow, you're driving through slush, wet, rainy (conditions),” Mr. Hong said. “It looks like it is all cut up, but it is all connected. So that increases the straight line stability of this tire.”

The NT90W also combines two different types of siping technology along with the silica-infused compound, according to Mr. Hong, with 3-D interlocking siping to help with acceleration along with multi-grip siping.

“These are actually built into the tire,” Mr. Hong said. “It's crazy how the engineers come up with this.”

To increase wet-weather traction, Nitto has designed the tire with an environmentally friendly win- ter tire compound.

“We have bamboo charcoal in our tire compound,” Mr. Hong said. “This is added in to actually create microscopic holes;...it acts like a sponge. So the sipes and circumferential grooves get rid of the water, but there's always that crazy thin...layer of water still on the road.”

The tire “actually sucks up the water and then lets it go while you're driving down the road,” he said.

The NT90W's tread compound also features crushed walnut shells—another sustainable and biodegradable element.

“We add the crushed walnut shells...at a microscopic level and it actually creates little scratching effects on the ice surfaces,” Mr. Hong said.

When the tire is travelling on ice, the crushed walnut shells will have a similar effect to using studded tires because they're scratching the surface, breaking up the ice, he added.

Members of the media tested the NT90W against two all-season tires—the Goodyear Eagle and the Nitto Motivo, launched in 2011—to show the differences between the winter tire and the all-seasons in special weather conditions, such as snow and slush.

Five driving exercises were conducted, ranging from emergency maneuvers to a hill climb.

The emergency maneuver consisted of driving toward an instructor holding a flag who would abruptly direct the driver to veer left or right. On the hill climb, drivers experienced the difference between the tires for ascending steep inclines during unfavorable winter conditions. The test showed, according to Nitto, that vehicles fitted with the NT90W climbed the hill with more ease than those fitted with the all-season tires—which at times had trouble making it up the hill and slid back down.

The NT90W comes with H and T ratings and is manufactured in Japan. It will be available in April in 15 sizes ranging from 17 to 20 inches in rim diameter.

To reach this reporter: jkarpus@crain.com; 330-865-6143.

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