For the largest manufacturer of synthetic rubber in the world, LANXESS, the slow pace of radialisation in the Indian commercial vehicles market offers a significant opportunity for growth. Although India took to radialisation many decades back, the CV tyre segment still lags behind the passenger cars tyre market by a huge margin.
The Automotive Tyre Manufacturers' Association (ATMA) pegs radialisation in the passenger car tyre segment at over 98 %, but with 15 % and 18 % radialisation in medium and heavy commercial vehicle segment (MHCV) and the LCV segment respectively, the industry still has a lot of catching up to do.
And there lies the promise of growth from a LANXESS perspective. Dr Ron Commander, Head of Business Unit – Butyl Rubber, LANXESS AG (top image) said, “From the synthetic rubber point of view, the Indian market – in comparison with China – is growing very quickly, but from a much lower base. The level of halobutyl used in India is, relatively speaking, still very small. But that’s where we see this as a huge potential area. We are very bullish on the Indian potential.”
Auto Tech Review spoke to Dr Commander and Dr Joachim Grub, Head of Business Unit – Performance Butadiene Rubbers, LANXESS AG (bottom image) on the sidelines of the LANXESS Rubber Day, organised by the company in Mumbai recently.
LANXESS incidentally is one of the few manufacturers worldwide that is able to produce bromobutyl and chlorobutyl rubber, often referred to as halobutyl rubber, in addition to regular butyl. In the tyre industry, halobutyl rubber is used as raw material to make gas-tight inner liners in tubeless tyres for cars, trucks, buses and bicycles. A new plant for butyl rubber will start operations in Q1 of 2013 in Singapore to serve customers in India and other Asian markets.
In an automotive tyre, halobutyl rubber helps to protect the steel cord from moisture and maintain the tyre pressure at a constant level for longer, thereby saving fuel. Halobutyl rubbers are also claimed to have proven their impermeability to gas and resistance to chemicals in vehicle air conditioning systems and tank linings.
TYRE LABELLING: A NECESSITY
Meanwhile, Dr Grub expected India to adopt tyre labelling soon, on the lines of Japan, South Korea and Europe. European tyre labelling has been in place since November 2012, and Brazil is likely to adopt tyre labelling by 2016. China too is expected to join in soon.
“These will have an impact, and consumers would start demanding quality products. As of today, even the European consumers have to learn to deal with these types of provided information. And with the Indian consumer becoming more discerning, we expect tyre labelling to become a reality in India sooner,” Grub said.
Tyre labelling is similar to the star ratings for consumer durables, meant to indicate the performance of the tyre in terms of fuel efficiency, braking distance, rolling resistance, rolling noise, durability, and so on through different grading systems. It aims to improve safety, ecological and economical efficiency of road traffic. One of our earlier articles on ‘Green Tyres’ stated that this regulation would bring in consumer transparency and encourage manufacturers to move upwards on the value chain in terms of higher performance and ‘greener’ tyres.
‘High-Tech Mobility and Emerging Trends’ was the theme for the Rubber Day symposium this year, the second such event to be organised in India in about two years – also signifying the importance of the Indian market for LANXESS.
Dr Joerg Strassburger, Managing Director and Country Representative of LANXESS India remarked that in emerging as a global automotive hub, the Indian automotive industry will usher in new needs, new opportunities, and new challenges. The need is to develop technology-driven solutions for a more sustainable future, he said. Other speakers included MF Farooqui, Secretary, Department of Heavy Industry, Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Government of India, Dr Rainier van Roessel, Member of the Board of Management of LANXESS AG and Sudhir Rao, Managing Director, Skoda Auto India.
Text: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah