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High Society: Yokohama Brings Advan to the U.S., Targets “Super Premium” Market

Yokohama Brings Advan to the U.S., Targets “Super Premium” Market

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First introduced in 1978, Yokohama Rubber Co.’s Advan tire brand, for the most part, owes its lineage to the Japanese market.

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In recent years, though, the strongest growth for the tiremaker has been outside of Japan, according to Norio Karashima, Yokohama Tire Corp.’s president and CEO. And, Yokohama is building on that growth by revving up its profit engines in the U.S. In fact, ever since Yokohama first opened the doors of its manufacturing and marketing arm in Fullerton, Calif., it has continued to expand its U.S. presence.

Case in point: The tiremaker officially launched its Advan brand in the U.S. market July 19-21 with an exclusive media event in California’s picturesque and prestigious wine country.

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Yokohama invited journalists to Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., to try out the five new UHP tires that would carry the Advan name in the states. Tire company officials said the line has “super premium status,” and targets an “upscale” enthusiast market. All five tires were presented to journalists in their order of introduction. Three of the tires are available now; the other two will launch by the end of the year.

The first tire in the Advan lineup – the A048 – had been introduced at the 2004 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. However, Yokohama expanded the tire’s size offerings to complement the brand’s U.S. launch. The A048 DOT racing tire is now available in two tread compounds and 25 sizes, ranging from 15- to 18-inch wheel diameters, Art Michalik, Yokohama’s director of marketing communications, told journalists.

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The next tire in the Advan lineup is the Neova, which Michalik described as a tire for “super enthusiasts.” The tire, selected as OE on the new Lotus Elise, features a micro-silica compound for grip in dry or wet conditions, noted Michalik.

The tire’s “uniforming ground-contact pressure greatly improves dry weather grip,” Yokohama said. The Advan Neova is available in 12 sizes.

In June, the tiremaker debuted the Advan ST, which Michalik described as an ultra-high performance SUV tire. “The ST unites the best elements of truck and passenger tires,” he explained. “It was designed to meet load carrying capacity as well as high-speed requirements of the new sporty, high-performance SUVs.”

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Michalik said the Advan ST is available in 30 sizes, from 17 to 24 inches and with 65 to 30 series aspect ratios. The tire carries only two speed ratings – W and Y – and is constructed with rayon body plies.

Next, this fall will see the introduction of the Advan Sport tire, which will feature a Y-speed rating and an asymmetric tread design, said Michalik. The Advan Sport tire will be offered in nearly 70 sizes that will be rolled out in stages.

Most noteworthy about the Advan Sport tire is its construction. According to Dan Guiney, Yokohama’s manager of technical service, the Sport tire is the first tire in the industry to use nanotechnology – a process in which components are engineered at one nanometer (one billionth of a meter) or less. “Nanotechnology allows us to make tread compounds that bond at a molecular level,” Guiney said. “The result is a compound that can grip extremely fine surfaces and irregularities.”

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Using nanotechnology, engineers in Yokohama’s Research and Development Integrated Center (known as RADIC) located near Tokyo, bonded super-fine silica, polymer and carbon materials to create the Advan Sport tire. “During development, the tread contact area increased by 10% solely through the use of this technology,” said Guiney.

(Editor’s Note: Jim Smith, Tire Review’s editor, predicted that nanotechnology would be the tire industry’s next big breakthrough. See his editorial in Tire Review’s May 2005 issue for more.)

And, finally, completing the Advan line will be the Advan S.4. all-season UHP tire, which will be offered only in North America, Yokohama noted. “The S.4. balances performance and all-season capabilities,” said Michalik. It will be offered in 30 sizes, from 16 to 19-inch wheel diameters, and in V, W and Y speed ratings. It has a UTQG rating of 400/AA/A, features a directional tread pattern and is targeted at sedans and coupes such as the Audi A8 and BMW 745i.

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Michalik told journalists to watch for the introduction of the Advan S.4. tire at this year’s SEMA Show in Las Vegas.

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