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New EU tyre label set to revolutionize tyre purchase

Jean-Pierre Jeusette, General Director Goodyear Innovation Center Luxembourg "Significant work going on behind the scenes"

Jean-Pierre Jeusette is General Director of the Goodyear Innovation Center Luxembourg (GIC*L), one of the most sophisticated tire research, development and evaluation centers in the world. He is responsible for the work of over 900 highly specialized R&D engineers, scientists and tire testers.

With one year to go until legislation requires that comparable information has to be provided on three important areas of performance for millions of tires across Europe, Jean-Pierre Jeusette talks about the new rules and the significant work that is going on behind the scenes at Goodyear Dunlop.

Did you expect the introduction of such legislation across Europe?
As member of the European Type & Rubber Manufacturers Association (ETRMA) Goodyear Dunlop has been involved in the formulation of the EU tire label legislation from an early stage. We were able to advise policy makers on the important role tires play in the environmental and safety performance of a vehicle. Tires can contribute to reduced fuel consumption and fewer CO2 emissions and – for me the key element – have a major influence on the vehicle’s safety performance. For instance, with a wise tire choice, drivers can significantly influence a shorter stopping distance. Since the announcement of the new EU legislation we have been ensuring our associates are well informed on what the tire label is and what impact we believe it might have. Now we are going to inform car makers, tire dealers and other important business partners about the upcoming label introduction.

Do you think the EU tire label introduction is a good thing?
Yes, definitely. I believe the regulation is focused on increasing the safety and the economic and environmental efficiency of road transport by better informing drivers on the safety and environmental performance of tires. Working with tires every day, I know what sophisticated high-technology products they are, but for most people they are hard to distinguish. We believe the EU tire label will help guide not only consumers, but also fleet owners and professional tire purchasers to choose safer and more fuel-efficient tires with low noise levels.

Does the label tell consumers everything they need to know?
This is important, as the EU tire label is a good starting point, but does not tell you everything. There are many more safety, performance and environmental related parameters that need to be considered when judging a tire’s performance. Goodyear Dunlop analyzes over 50 criteria during the tire development and testing process, such as the tire’s wet and dry handling performance, its stopping distance on dry roads and its aquaplaning resistance, just to name just a few.

Another good example of a performance area that is not yet reflected in the tire label is the specific performance of winter tires. Winter tires need to provide excellent grip and short braking distances on wet roads, slush, snow and ice both uphill and down, while braking, accelerating and cornering – and all this at temperatures significantly lower than in summer.

There are key technology differences that allow winter tires to perform better in cold weather conditions: the types and composition of tread compounds that are used, the special sipe technologies, the shape of the contact patch as well as the distinctive tread designs. The development of special winter compounds is extremely important and a challenging tasks for our R&D teams. The new EU tire label does not provide any information on the specific performance criteria of a winter tire.

How should consumers find the right tires if the tire label doesn’t cover all these areas?
There are many sources of information: First of all, talk to a tire dealer you trust. Describe your driving behavior, your vehicle and your seasonal requirements. He should be able to advise you on the differences in tires and make a good recommendation that provides a solution for your specific needs.
Secondly, stick to tires from well-known quality and premium manufacturers. Don’t try to save a few Euros by choosing no-name products. The research, development and testing efforts we invest in our tires are significant and these activities have a direct impact on the safety performance of your car.
Thirdly, the annual tire tests of automotive clubs and automotive magazines can be a good source for advice too. Europe’s leading tire testers, such as the German Automotive Club ADAC and magazines such as Auto, Motor und Sport, AutoBild and many other magazines across Europe publish tire tests regularly.

There are also other independent testing organizations such as TÜV SÜD Automotive that provide insights into the performance of different tires. Additionally, look at what tires car manufacturers fit as original equipment.

And, starting November 2012, the EU tire label will provide additional, neutral and comparable information on three important criteria.

When will you start physically putting the EU tire label on the tires and will there be stickers on all tires?
As of November 2012, we need to provide the tire label information for all of our tires produced after July 1, 2012. Only passenger car and light truck tires will actually carry a sticker, however, we are already talking about millions of tires that we at Goodyear Dunlop need to provide with a sticker. Purchasers of truck tires will not see the label information on the tire itself, but will receive it during the selling process, with their invoice and with our technical promotional material including our web site. Wet grip requirements are not yet defined in the regulation for light truck and truck tires, since there was no test method available when the regulation was adopted. These test methods are expected to be adopted at the end of 2011 in a new regulation.

This new regulation will also define when tire manufacturers are allowed to implement the new legislation before November 2012. From this early implementation date we will be allowed to communicate the specific tire label grading of our products.

What activities are currently going on at Goodyear Dunlop to get ready for the EU tire label?
We have started the process of assessing the performance of our tires according to the specific EU-wide agreed test methods, as far as the test methods have already been agreed. This is a complex and challenging process, since our tire evaluation team has to review over 10,000 different products in a variety of sizes. We will also ensure our business partners are well informed and are aware of the new regulation.

We believe that premium manufacturers such as Goodyear Dunlop with their high quality products will benefit from the new tire label since it gives access to objective and comparable information on important tire performances.

Will tires score AA very quickly?
A score of AA is extremely challenging as the grading requirements are very high – keeping the balanced tire as the main development goal in mind. The EU has set these requirements at an aspirational level for tire manufacturers to work towards a top grading. Creating a balanced tire that scores A in both the Rolling Resistance and Wet Grip category and still performs well in other important parameters that we focus on – such as dry braking, aquaplaning and snow and ice performance for winter tires – will remain a challenge.

It is important to understand that tire development has to overcome several conflicts or trade-offs. For example, improvements in rolling resistance could be easily achieved by compromising the tire’s wet grip performance. There is a similar relation between wet grip and the tire’s mileage potential, as well as various other performance criteria. At Goodyear Dunlop we do not accept these kinds of compromises and always try to excel across all categories.

Will the new legislation change your development goals?
The new legislation will not change our general direction. We continuously invest in research, development and product evaluation to produce quality tires that will contribute to increased road safety and to increased environmental benefits. We will not sacrifice other safety performance areas to excel in the three label criteria. Our development goal remains a balanced tire with good performance results in all key areas.

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