Consumer needs are ever-evolving; simulation helps in understanding the product better and how it will react in various situations
Goodyear has over 120 years of experience in developing tyres for various segments, while serving diversified markets across the globe. In a tete-a-tete with Kenneth Jenner Powell, Product Director – Goodyear Consumer Tyres Asia Pacific, Auto Tech Review tries to delve deeper into the company’s approach towards developing advanced tyres for Indian as well as global markets.
Kenneth Jenner Powell currently serves as a Product Director – Goodyear Consumer Tyres Asia Pacific. He is responsible for facilitating product development and launch strategies that will bring competitive advantages in meeting consumer requirements. With over 29 years of experience, Powell has held many roles with increasing responsibilities since joining Goodyear as Consumer Product Engineer in 1989 at the Goodyear Technical Center – Luxembourg (GTC*L).
He joined the AP region’s marketing department in 2006 as Commercialisation Director. Powell has not only acquired a vast experience in developing and marketing new tyre products such as premium passenger & luxury SUV lines or key mid-range passenger lines, but also developed a rich understanding of multiple market needs and cultural differences across many countries. Powell holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and Master’s degree in Business Administration.
ATR _ What approach is Goodyear adopting to address the future of mobility?
Goodyear consistently keeps track of developments around car mobility technologies across the world. With technology centres spanning across the globe, we have built good contacts with OEMs as well as understand what start-ups are doing. The market is evolving towards more autonomous or car-sharing, eventually leading to a car-sharing model. We are also looking at what could be the car-sharing implications on usage of tyres rather than the functionalities of tyres. By analysing that, we will be exploring different elements like the concepts that have been unveiled in recent years.
So how far can you go in terms of exploring different mobility systems?
Obviously the Aero tyres are forward thinking in terms of what could happen concerning future mobility. It’s not a question of what we are specifically developing today, but about how we ensure we don’t miss out on any of the evolutions. The focus is on contributing as a tyre manufacturer in helping OEMs develop successful mobility systems.
How critical is the role of different elements that blend together for development of robust tyres?
Tyres have a complex structure and we have to work on different elements as a combination to deliver certain performance results. Consumer needs are always evolving and what keeps you in business is the strength of innovation, something that keeps us differentiated in the market. We not only work on the tread design, but also on different elements like noise that contribute to the different parameters. For example, we ensure we minimise the noise generated by the tread when it rolls but also the vibration, because vibrations would generate interior noise. We also work on the tread, which we call air-borne or radiating noise and perceived noise that you see inside the car that is more low-level frequency, which is generated by vibration.
We put additional layers on the shoulder area during tyre construction, which is a transition between the flex on the sidewall and the tread itself. This allows us to minimise vibrations that reduce the entire interior noise. Safety is at the core of product development and we ensure the product delivers performance and satisfies what customer needs from us, be it passenger cars, farm equipment or light commercial trucks.
Natural rubber is not abundantly available and witnesses a lot of price fluctuations. Companies are exploring new elements to increase product robustness and also reduce dependency on natural rubber. What’s your take?
The variation in raw materials is important because it directly impacts the cost of your product. We look at different combinations of compounds that vary in different formulations or different ingredients. Sourcing and managing different ingredients are another way of controlling costs. It’s all about effective materials management, something firms are focussing on to manage cost fluctuations. We focus on different elements that we can use to create the same properties and skew our tyres towards a greener type of components like soyabean-based tread compounds that we have developed.
Can you elaborate on the engineering excellence of Assurance Duraplus 2 that offers 1.10 lakh km tyre mileage?
Assurance Duraplus 2 is our new entry-level product and has been introduced with a treadlife technology – its sipe angles, width and depth of the new symmetrical tread pattern has been designed with more carbon black and additives to minimise irregular wear, improve tensile strength and wear resistance to ensure high mileage. With wider cavity shape, and narrower grooves Assurance Duraplus 2 ensures increased wearable rubber volume for up to 1.10 lakh km tyre mileage. The symmetrical tread pattern design ensures better flexibility in tyre rotation from front to rear or left to right, thereby improving the tyre lifespan. The sidewall has been developed with two layers of high modulus, low shrinkage ply material to ensure better resistance against external impacts. The sidewall compound has been further upgraded to enhance long-term resistance against environmental influences as well as wear & tear.
The enhanced cavity shape ensures a more squarish and balance footprint to maintain a larger contact patch and reduced contact pressure for extended mileage. Enhanced cavity shape at the lower sidewall area also reduces stress that creeps in due to vertical forces generated during on-road operations. Even entry and mid-level segments prefer tyre quietness and thus, we have designed the Assurance Duraplus 2 with narrower lateral grooves and closed design that reduces the noise caused by air pumping.
Every tyre block generates an impact while operating on road and so optimised groove angles and pitch sequence have been introduced on the new tyre to reduce impact noise. Rubber strips have also been added between the ply and liner to mitigate tyre noise throughout the tyre life. The overall technology enables 9 % improvement of the wet grip index (WGI) to meet Economic Commission of Europe (ECE) levels, thereby registering a 5 % improvement on wet braking/ wet handling over Assurance Duraplus.
Talk us through your Wrangler AT SilentTrac that has been targeted at a different league altogether.
This tyre is designed to be multifunctional. People today drive more and more on the road, but still desire off-road driving. Wrangler AT SilentTrac has been developed keeping in mind 70 % on-road and 30 % off-road applications, as the SUV market in India has been gathering steam. This tyre has been engineered with the Durawall technology for a better all-terrain performance from SUVs during on-road as well as off-road applications. Wrangler AT SilentTrac offers advanced tread compound with silica blend that has been optimised to resist cutting and chipping while engaging in off-road driving without compromising on performance. The Durawall technology has a tough sidewall with a thicker gauge and robust compound that offer better resistance to cuts and punctures with high abrasion and tear resistance during off-roading. The solid centre line blocks with abundant traction deliver reliable all-terrain traction and robust off-road toughness. The aggressive traction blocks are angled with progressive impact lowering pattern noise as well as ensuring a quiet performance.
The shoulders feature pronounced traction notches and solid ribs that ensure smoother impact on road along with stiffer foundation for heavy handling improvements. The thicker rubber layer under the tread softens contact with road to absorb vibration and also reduces noise. SilentTrac offers up to 8 % reduction on internal and 3 dB on exterior pass-by noise. The new tread pattern ensures an 8 % increase in rubber volume for a longer tread life of up to 30 % and reduces chipping by 59 % over Wrangler AT Silent Armour. Its advanced tread compound with silica, polymers and carbon black blend is enhanced for better resistance to road abrasion, resulting in superior tread wear. The tyre also boasts of optimised cavity shape to deliver enhanced contact patch, allowing the load to be evenly distributed for a balanced wear.
Simulation is fast becoming a crucial part of the automotive industry – how is Goodyear leveraging simulation for its tyre portfolio?
Goodyear is probably one of the pioneers of simulation. It’s also the way we approach the market, in terms of being more responsive, more reactive because more simulation you do the more interaction you can have with OEMs by providing them tyre data and how can they integrate that into their car models. Using stimulation, we can reduce the amount of prototyping that we need to do because the prototyping is done at a screen level rather than at the product level. It also helps understand the product better and how the tyre reacts as it is a combination of many different elements that interact either positively or negatively depending on the design parameters we undertake.
Give us an insight into Goodyear’s R&D centres in Ohio and Luxembourg.
As far as tyre development is concerned, Goodyear focusses on advanced research and both our R&D centres collaborate based on their specialisation in certain fields of expertise. From a development standpoint, the Ohio centre takes care of most of the Americas, in terms of their development and the Luxembourg centre caters to Europe, Africa and Asia Pacific. However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have interactions with North America. We share a lot of technologies across different regions and whenever we see opportunities for globalisation of products, these two centres work together to develop products globally.
What role does India play, in terms of developing new tyres at Goodyear globally?
Goodyear does not operate any R&D Centre in India, but we do have local production facilities at Ballabhgarh and Aurangabad. Our strategy from a development point of view is to identify key markets across different regions. India is a key market for the Asia-Pacific region and we send our engineers here to understand the market requirements and then incorporate requirements into our design process. We also ensure within the Asia-Pacific region, we can satisfy the needs of different countries or different clusters to come up with a product that can work well in India and work well in South-East Asia or more mature markets such as Australia.
From a specialised products point of view, it is relatively easier since it is same like a sports tyre in India or in North America or China. The mid-range products are more difficult to develop because they need to address broader market requirements. In India, mileage is more important than in any other country. So we essentially ensure we can still offer a balance between different requirements across the region.
TEXT: Anirudh Raheja