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Michelin Taking Long View of Sustainable Transportation

June 13, 2017

By David Cullen

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Michelin CEO Jean-Dominique Senard (right) welcomes attendees to Movin’ On conference as Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre looks on. Photo: Michelin
Michelin CEO Jean-Dominique Senard (right) welcomes attendees to Movin’ On conference as Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre looks on. Photo: Michelin

MONTREAL — As Ralph Dimenna, chief operating officer of Michelin Americas Truck Tires, sees it, the Movin’ On sustainability conference that the global tire maker is hosting here this week aims “to promote free thinking” to help address the various issues now impacting transport mobility across the globe.

“Whether it’s a group of people baking a cake [which was happening just around the corner from where Dimenna spoke with HDT at the event] or people taking part in a human-centered workshop here, the goal is getting a variety of people thinking and talking about new solutions.”

Indeed, in his opening address to the conference, Michelin CEO Jean-Dominque Senard said that far from being a slogan, “’Movin’ On’ is instead a call to action-- collective, optimistic, technologically demanding action in phase with the 21st century and with the challenges that we must meet.”

Senard also said that Michelin is “open to the collaborative world, without borders. A more connected world that invites people to work together more closely. We believe in a range of highly efficient mobility solutions that are adapted to everyone’s needs. Movin’ On and our active participation show that we are not content to talk about sustainable mobility. Rather, we are building it.”

Dimenna pointed out that Michelin is “taking a very long view of sustainable mobility” and therefore it intends “not to get caught up in the short-term political environment,” which has seen the U.S. under the Trump administration pull back from its commitment to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases that are contributing to global warming.

Rather, he framed the issue as much as anything through the lens of business acumen, stating that “making transportation more efficient is our goal. And we need to have this sustainability conversation to provide the perspective expected by our fleet customers.”

Dimenna elaborated on that, pointing out that truck owners need to know that tires are “not only built for fuel economy, but also to deliver longevity, durability, and retreadability.”

As an example, he noted that a new regional-drive tire that Michelin will roll out in the U.S. later this month is designed to offer “good fuel economy but also greatly improved traction at startup.

“These kinds of [product] developments are possible because we have invested in advanced materials and production techniques,” he continued. “It’s all about greater control of our processes and the [rubber] compounds we develop. It’s the combination of analytical capability and huge investments made on the manufacturing side” that enables the company to bring forward more refined products.”

Asked about the tire price hike of up to 8% announced across the board for the U.S. and Canada earlier this year, Dimmena told HDT that it was driven by “having put a ton of money into technology, people, solutions and services since our last price increase back in 2012. On top of that, there has been a significant run-up in the cost of raw materials.” Taking all that into account, “we felt it was the appropriate time to implement an increase. As long as we can explain it,” he added, “we believe the market can understand it.”

Twenty years ago, Michelin launched its first global sustainability event, which was dubbed “Challenge Bibendum,” after the formal name of its Michelin Man mascot. The company said the new “Movin’ On” three-day format, launched this week in Montreal, is designed to be “more collaborative and more prospective,” serving both as a showcase for innovation and an setting in which “mobility players” can compare and discuss options.

“Movin’On has been devised to promote comparisons and these comparisons nurture the innovation process,” according to Michelin. The program includes presentations, “master classes,” creative interactions (like baking that cake), networking sessions,  rides-and-drives of alternatively powered vehicles, and a “village” of startup firms with solutions that address transport mobility issues.

Related: On the Move at Micheliin's Movin' On Conference

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