“When you create a car that has more than 750 horsepower, it's a very dangerous object,” he said. “You have to count on what the tires are doing.”
Mauricio Ruggieri, head of R&D at Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A., said his company has such a strong bond with Pirelli that it lends cars to the tire maker—something it does not do with any of its other suppliers.
The shared expertise of Pirelli and Lamborghini allows the auto maker to create cars that reach speeds exceeding 215 mph, according to Mr. Ruggieri.
“Our car is a rocket,” he said. “The tire is the only object between what we create and the ground.”
Mark Vinnels, executive director of product development at McLaren Automotive, noted the stringent and often contradictory demands his company makes on Pirelli — such as low rolling resistance and road grip — that Pirelli has always met.
Mr. Vinnels spoke particularly of the foam lining Pirelli created for the tires for the 570S GT, the car intended for street use that McLaren unveiled at the Geneva show.
“The tire, from our standpoint, is the single most important component on the car,” he said.
The tire Pirelli designed for the Italdesign GTZero, an electric Gran Turismo 2+2 intended to be both a high-performance car and a family car, is an example of Pirelli's homologation work. The tires — 21 inch rim diamter in the front, 22 on the rear — are manufactured in Rome, Ga., specifically and only for that model.
For Pirelli, homologation was a sensible choice, according to company publicity.
“The advanced performance and technical characteristics of today's premium and prestige cars can no longer be sustained by identical tires for every model,” the company said.
“The ingredients of Pirelli's perfect fit strategy are dedicated technologies, processes and materials,” it said. “By blending these elements together, in accordance with the needs that each manufacturer's engineers identify right from the design phase, Pirelli is able to develop tires that are tailor-made for each car.”
Market trends dictated Pirelli's move toward homologation, according to Mr. Borgo. The prestige car market is expected to increase sevenfold by 2020 from 2000, and the premium car market to triple during that period, compared with only a 50-percent increase in the standard car market.
Between 2000 and 2015, new vehicle segments opened up, such as premium sports and luxury SUVs and electric sports cars, Mr. Borgo said. New markets burgeoned, such as the Persian Gulf and Asia Pacific, and new players entered the market, such as Tesla and McLaren, he said.
Pirelli has the most homologated tires of any tire company, ahead of Continental A.G. and well ahead of all others, according to Mr. Borgo.
Only a small percentage of the public knows what homologation is, but car buyers seem receptive to the idea, Mr. Borgo said. In a recent poll taken by Pirelli, 16 percent of respondents knew what a homologated tire was when asked. However, once the concept was explained to them, 78 percent said they would be willing to pay more to buy homologated tires.
Pirelli has no plans to remove any of the other nine other P Zero SKUs from the market once the new P Zero is introduced, according to Mr. Borgo. However, the company expects the new model to comprise half of the P Zero market in 2016, and be the majority tire in the group after that, he said.
The official European launch of the new P Zero is scheduled for early April in Lisbon, Mr. Borgo said. The Asian launch in Shanghai will follow in mid- to late April, and the North American introduction will occur before summer at an as-yet-undisclosed location, he said.