If you created a product with the word “extreme” in its name, you’d want to prove its mettle, right? So, if you were showing off, say, a new winter tire, would wind chill temperatures exceeding -30⊄F be extreme enough?
Vredestein Tyre North America’s (VTNA) recent dealer and media rollout of its new Wintrac Xtreme pushed that extreme envelope. The driving portion of the program was held at Circuit Mecaglisse, a racetrack/test center hidden in mountainous Notre-Dame de la Merci, Quebec, some 90 minutes north of Montreal.
Intrepid tire dealers and media folks participated fully, minimizing their face-stinging outdoor time by maximizing their in-car seat time. Vredestein created four test areas, offering a straight-line panic and avoidance braking test, an autocross course, a two-part slalom track and a tight skid pad all on snow-covered ice.
Of course, this event was just the gravy. The formal intro last year was held atop a live glacier near Montreaux, Switzerland, in the shadow of the fabled Matterhorn and Mont Blanc.
The Wintrac Xtreme, which is replacing select sizes of Vredestein’s existing Wintrac and Snowtrac lines, held its own against the elements as Chrysler 300s and Jaguar S-Types and X-Types moved through the exercises. In addition, the vehicles were driven on snow- and slush-covered public roads in the Notre-dame de la Merci area.
The evening before the driving event, Vredestein officials from the U.S. and the Netherlands briefed attendees on the new line and the tiremaker’s plans.
Marc Luyten, director of worldwide sales and marketing for parent Vredestein Banden, said “2004 was the best year ever for Vredestein in North America,” and that the company, while small, will continue its course. “We do not want to buy marketshare,” Luyten said. “We intend to protect our dealers’ territories, as we have in the past.”
Luyten said Vredestein will grow by expanding into new markets and enhancing marketing efforts. Vredestein, for example, will be adding a new summer tire and plans to seek distribution for the line in warm weather states.
In describing the new line, Al Smoke, sales manager for VTNA, said, “Vredestein was the first, and remains the only, tire producer to have its tires designed by one of the world’s leading design houses: Giugiaro.” The new Wintrac Xtreme is the third tire Giugiaro has worked on for Vredestein. Past collaborations resulted in successful products like Sportrac and Ultrac, Smoke noted.
Michiel Kramer, who recently joined VTNA as a new business manager, reviewed the technical and performance aspects of the tire. “Having no compromise in the tire’s performance required having a completely new tire, so we started from scratch,” Kramer said.
Vredestein engineers worked with Giugiaro Design to create the Wintrac Xtreme’s tread pattern, which features 2,000 shoulder-to-shoulder zig-zag sipes cut at variable depths to maximize traction and minimize wear, he said.
The tire’s wide footprint enhances stability and handling, while three circumferential grooves and a W-shaped groove pattern helps evacuate water and slush while adding tractive properties, Kramer noted. The tread compound features the tiremaker’s “optimum silica processing” technology, which, according to Kramer, allows the tread to remain flexible in extreme conditions and deliver long treadlife in normal use.
Kramer said that, while the Wintrac Xtreme carries both the M+S and snowflake symbols, designating mud and snow as well as pure winter capabilities, the tire’s water evacuating properties and wet, dry and winter traction make it an ideal four-season tire, as well.
The W- and V-rated tire is now available in 13 sizes, covering 16-, 17- and 18-inch wheel diameters all extra load. More sizes will be forthcoming, as well as an SUV version of the Wintrac Xtreme this spring.