LAS VEGASPirelli Tire North America L.L.C. is broadening the P Zero performance family again.
The Rome, Ga.-based tire maker is adding an all-season version designed for the North American market and striking a deal making Pirelli the spec racing tire and presenting sponsor of the Trans Am Championship for the next three years.
The new P Zero All Season Plus, designed for a range of sports cars, sports coupes and performance sedansincluding American muscle cars, etc.completes a triad of new performance models aimed at specific niche customers, Pirelli executives said at a media event held in Las Vegas on the eve of the SEMA Show. Aftermarket availability is expected to be the first quarter next year.
The latest iterations of the P Zero come in the 30th year of the line's existence, Pirelli noted. In that time, the company has chalked up more than 1,000 OE homologations for various P Zero models.
The new P Zero models for North America will come predominantly from the company's factory in Silao, Mexico, which is undergoing an expansion that will double capacity there by 2018.
Pirelli executives stressed at the Las Vegas media event that the expanded P Zero range will feature three variants, each designed for a specific car type with different applications and performance levels.
For sports cars, the P Zero has been tailored with a less sculpted tread pattern design, favoring dynamic performance.
For luxury sedans, the pattern has been adapted to feature a deeply grooved external shoulder to better absorb road surface impact and enhance comfort.
The third design, the new P Zero Corsa, relies on a more aggressive tread design more closely related to the P Zero motorsport slick tires, the company said.
Pirelli Tire North America CEO and Chairman Pierluigi Dinelli noted that Pirelli's P Zero strategy is focused heavily on OEM accounts, especially with the prestige and premium car brands.
The company's work with the OEMs has evolved to the point where Pirelli is supplying marked tires for each brand that indicate those P Zero variants are distinctive with that car brand.
Among the technologies Pirelli is incorporating into these latest P Zero versions are:
c F1 Bead, a racing-inspired bead for Formula 1-style handling;
c Extended Range Profile for more even wear and top performance;
c Re-engineered tread patterns to deliver improved lateral aquaplaning performance;
c Tread patterns designed specifically to reduce cabin noise and improve driver comfort; and
c Reduced rolling resistance, by as much as 15 percent, based on new modeling techniques, weight reduction and new high silica content materials.
Pirelli said it anticipates the P Zero range will deliver more than 100 OEM homologations by year-end, having already achieved 60 homologations since its European launch in March.
One of Pirelli's biggest challenges going forward, Mr. Dinelli said, is helping the aftermarket distribution channel understand these distinctions and to help them evolve from retail fitter to customer consultants.
While Pirelli is, to a degree, targeting the All Season Plus version to a degree at owners of American muscle cars, the tire also will fit a wide range of sports coupes from the leading European, Japanese and Korean car brands.
Reinforcing the muscle car image, though, is Pirelli's decision to go after the Trans Am Series race tire deal.
Trans Am Race Co. L.L.C. and Pirelli announced their partnership deal at SEMA. Hoosier Racing Tire Corp. has been the series' race tire supplier for the past three seasons.
The Trans Am serieswhich now will be called Trans Am Championship presented by Pirelliwas founded in 1966 and was popular in the 1960s and '70s as the premiere road-racing venue for the U.S. pony car generationFord Mustangs, Chevrolet Camaros, Pontiac Firebirds, Dodge Challengers, Plymouth "Cudas and AMC Javelins.
Financial terms of the deal were not announced, but Trans Am Race President John Clagett said a key component of the contract is Pirelli's commitment to invest in researching and developing tires for all four Trans Am classes.
Trans Am is one of the biggest names in America, with close, affordable and popular racing that showcases thrilling competition, said Paul Hembery, Pirelli Tyre S.p.A.'s motorsport director.
To reach this reporter: bdavis@ crain.com; 330-865-6145; Twitter: @reifenmensch