Five Questions With - Anthony Lee - Tire Review Magazine

Five Questions With – Anthony Lee

Anthony Lee is the lead light truck development engineer for Nitto Tire USA, and was responsible for Nitto’s new Trail Grappler M/T line.

Take us through what is different about the Trail Grappler M/T compared to competitive products.

“We’ve focused mainly on concerns from customers. We did a lot of market research prior to develop to see what they wanted in this type of tire and the complaints about and aspects of other tires that they didn’t like. So we tried to improve upon those issues. In that respect, we focused on a couple of things. One was noise, that was a main concern. And second was the ability to have decent tread life for a mud terrain tire. In doing so we were able to come up with the Trail Grappler M/T, which is relatively quiet for the type of tire it is in the segment. We also created some innovative sizes for our customers to combat some of the problems they were having in dealing with TPMS. Customers in this segment are going to bigger, larger tires, and on three-quarter- and one-ton trucks they were having some issues getting the 80 psi load carrying capacity. So we developed some 33- and 35-inch overall diameter sizes that are 80 psi compliant for those tire pressure monitoring systems. Looking at some of our competitors, they have not necessarily done so for all of their lines.

“Also we added some interested features into the tire that include the reinforced shoulder groove, and the 3D tapered grooves in all of the tread blocks. We also have the center siping that some competitors have, but not all. In the sidewall, we have a 3-ply sidewall and a high turn-up ply for extra strength. We also integrated sidewall lugs into the tread.”

In the Nitto line, there has been a similar product in the past, correct?

“The closest thing we had was the Mud Grappler. The Trail Grappler M/T is kind of a fusion product between the Mud Grappler and the Terra Grappler. We wanted something in between, something that wasn’t as aggressive as the Mud Grappler, which we are continuing to produce because there is still a lot of demand for that tire. The main complaint with that product was how loud it was in on-road driving, and that was something we wanted to address with the new Trail Grappler. We wanted to give customers something less extreme, more conservative than the Mud Grappler and a little more aggressive than the Terra Grappler.”

In terms of the tread compound, you talked about tread life issue with this type of tire, so talk about some of the things you did with the tread compound itself in terms of improving the tread life.

“With the tread compound, we produced it to not be as soft as the Mud Grappler. Mud terrain tires being open with a lot of void, they tend to eat up tires. Typically tires that go off-road a lot don’t wear as fast. But most drivers aren’t going to be off-road that much, maybe 10%-20% of the time. They still want the capability to go off-road whenever they want to, they want to know that they can go off-road. Most of the time, though, the tire will be on road so we developed a compound that excels on-road in terms of noise and tread wear with a tread pattern that is highly functional off-road.”

With the target market you were shooting for, what was the on-road vs. off-road mix?

“Typically, these consumers will probably see maybe 80%-90% on-road driving and 10%-20% off-road. The tire was designed for the guy who drives his truck daily on-road. He commutes to work and what not, but also goes out trails on the weekends or he goes to Moab or up in the mountains. They’ll know they have the capability and confidence to do so.”

It is obviously difficult to balance all of the performance characteristics, but what was the one aspect that you had the toughest time with and you were able to succeed in tackling?

“I would have to say that it was having the tire to be launched on time. When we did our market research, we also talked to our dealers about how they saw the tire fitting in, and one thing they came back strongly about was timing, about getting the tire out in time for hunting seasons and the fall period when a lot of off-roaders hit the trails. So we had production slots allocated to meet our dealer customers’ needs, which meant we had to put a lot of extra time and effort in a short period of time to meet their needs. And I’m happy to say that we met all of our deadlines, without cutting any corners. It was a demanding process, and I think the dealers are happy with the end result.”

Are the tires being made in Japan or the U.S.?

“Pretty much 95% are being made in Georgia.”

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