LOUISVILLE, KY -- North American medium and heavy duty trucks could soon be running on iconic Pirelli tires. The group that will spearhead the NAFTA marketing and distribution efforts, TP Commercial Solutions LLC, made the announcement here at the Mid-America Trucking Show.
The move represents an expansion into North America of Pirelli’s industrial business unit, currently headed at the group level by Pirelli CEO Marco Tronchetti Provera. The unit supplies commercial truck tires and fleet solutions to the global market. The drive into the US and Canadian markets, which are the world’s largest in terms of value for commercial truck tires and fleet management solutions, is part of Pirelli’s global growth strategy.
Pirelli currently sells more than 5 million commercial truck tires a year worldwide.
Clif Armstrong, most recently the director of Continental Americs' Commercial Vehicle Tires division, will manage the project as President of TP Commercial Solutions LLC. He will be based at Pirelli’s North American headquarters in Rome, Ga.
“Pirelli’s strategy for car and light truck products in North America is focused on premium products customized for the particular needs of the market," said Armstrong. “With the launch of the commercial truck business, we plan to do the same thing -- adapt the excellent technology and leadership of the Pirelli industrial product line to the specifications and demanding requirements of the North American market."
The first Pirelli tires that will see North American pavement are low-profile 22.5 models. The exact tires have not been decided yet, but they will be based on the popular "01" series tires widely available in Europe, Australia and South America. Armstrong says the company currently has 1,800 tires in tests here now with 40 fleets. The final design will be based on the results of the tests.
"We're going to let those tires wear out," Armstrong told reporters at a press briefing. "If you think about a steer tire's normal application and normal life expectancy of about 120,000 to 150,000 miles, unless you're testing it in a team operation, it will be at least 8 to 10 months before we can make a product decision."
Armstrong says production of an on-highway tire is expected to begin in the fall of 2016, following the final decision on tread design and compounding which will be optimized for North American road conditions, truck models and speeds.
Regional and on/off road tires for all positions are in testing as well, and will be offered in ribbed and traction styles. At this stage, no wide-base tires are planned.
Expect the Pirelli tire to first appear 'premium tier,' which means it will be competitively priced and intended to compete with the better tires on the market, including the tier-one players.
"My belief is we have the ability to reach that level because we'll have the right product for the market," Armstrong said. "Premium product that runs long and is retreadable appeals to fleets in this marketplace."
The first tires scheduled to launch are for Class 8 on-highway trucks, followed by class 6 and 7 regional tires. They are looking closely at Class 5 trucks as well, depending on the tire sizes. Armstrong says Pirelli has the wherewithal to bring tires to market for Classes 3 and 4 as well.
Pirelli owns and operates truck manufacturing facilities in Brazil, China, Egypt, and Turkey. The tires the company will soon bring to North America will be produced in Sao Paulo, Brazil.