Consumer lifestyles have had a tremendous impact on new vehicle designs and segmentation. Tiremakers have had to adjust to meet the needs of today’s highly sliced-and-diced market. And, they are also starting to look closely at how consumer lifestyles and desires can impact tire development and positioning.
Calling it the company’s “most important product launch” in the last few years, Michelin North America (MNA) looks to tackle the segmentation question with three new tires and the creation of a new product line. At a media event staged on the high desert surrounding Las Vegas and in the high, gusting winds that swept across Las Vegas International Speedway, MNA unveiled its “MX Series” touring tire line, with the Pilot MXM4 and the Energy MXV4, as well as the Pilot Exalto A/S for “sport” performance applications.
Adam Murphy, MNA touring category manager, said that traditional “touring” and “sport” tire consumers have become, at least in MNA’s view, more divergent.
“Attempting to cover these two markets with a single tire line would be like trying to surf and snow-board with the same board,” added Sheryl Henderson, director of the Michelin brand.
Within the touring tire category alone, there are “luxury” and “near-luxury” sub-segments, said Murphy. To address the shift, MNA launched the Pilot MXM4 for the top-end touring group and the Energy MXV4 for near-luxury touring fitments.
The Pilot MXM4, according to MNA, targets vehicles like the Audi A6, BMW 5 series, Cadillac CTS, Jaguar S Type, Volvo S80, Acura RL, Infiniti M45 and Mercedes Benz E class. The tire features torque-locking, zig-zag sipes for snow traction in winter and dry cornering the rest of the year and Michelin’s BAZ (banded at zero) technology, in which nylon strips are spiral wound to improve handling and durability, said MNA officials. A new bead tension structure, as Michelin calls it, has one of the twin body plies wrapping around the bead, and the outer ply turned down so that they lock into each other.
The MXM4 is available in 43 H-, V- and W-rated sizes, covering 16- to 19-inch diameters. Seven sizes were added in June.
Michelin said its new Energy MXV4 will target owners of cars like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Mazda 626, Nissan Maxima, Volkswagen Passat and Jetta and Hyundai Sonata. The tire is now available in 57 speed-rated sizes.
Consumers buying MX Series tires can take advantage of Michelin’s 30-day satisfaction guarantee, and free access to Michelin’s new Tire Concierge Program in which owners can call Michelin for tire purchasing and tire services advise, or have the tiremaker contact their nearest Michelin dealer, confirm tire availability and even arrange an appointment with the dealer.
In introducing the new Pilot Exalto A/S, Eric Sweigart, Michelin HP/UHP brand manager, talked about the growth in the performance sport segment, particularly in the H- and V-rated categories, which now represent more than 15 million units. Sweigart said MNA projects a 9.5% annual growth rate for that segment over the next three years.
To tackle that growth, Michelin expanded its focus, he said. In the past, Michelin looked to the traditional OE customer, who bought the same size/same tire at replacement. Now, and particularly in the sport compact segment, consumers want their cars to look sharp, and so they seek to change tires and sizes when it’s time for new tires.
That’s where the Exalto A/S comes in, he noted. The line targets owners of the VW GTI, Miata, Integra, RSX, Eclipse, Intrepid, Nissan 240SX and so forth.
It features a symmetrical directional tread design, a European profile with rounded shoulders, a long-wearing, all-season tread compound, larger shoulder blocks and four circumferential grooves plus lateral grooves to fight hydroplaning, said MNA. It will be available in 25 H- and V-rated, 14- to 17-inch sizes.
The tire is also covered under Michelin’s 30-day satisfaction guarantee and a 45,000-mile treadwear warranty.
To support the launch of the new tires, MNA is running a heavy advertising program in consumer magazines and on television and issuing a new POS kit to dealers.
As a dealer sales incentive, MNA is offering 10 grand prize, all-expense-paid trips to the upcoming PGA Michelin Championship in Las Vegas.