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19/11/2015 13:49

The right rubber oil

Consumer demand for high performance, technically sophisticated tyres is on the increase. Choosing the right rubber oil has never been more important, says Pirelli's Luigi Staccoli.

Consumer trends show an increased demand for technically sophisticated high-performance tyres. We find that consumers increasingly understand the importance of tyres and their impact on vehicle safety and performance, total cost of ownership and the environment. Rolling resistance, mileage, stopping distance, versatility of usage, tyre handling contribution - these are no longer subjects of discussion exclusive to original equipment customers.

New technical attributes are continuously added to the tyres of tomorrow, such as noise cancelling systems, extended mobility technologies, and cyber components that interact with vehicle electronics. New materials are developed every day to design tyres with improved balance of overall performances. This is important to anticipate the requirements of the vehicles of tomorrow, including electric cars and the more and more popular hybrid cars. Cars that deliver ever higher performance have to respect extremely high standards of safety and are cutting fuel consumption through energy efficiency and weight reduction. Tyres have to support this trend.

There are still some peculiarities that distinguish different markets, such as North America from Europe or Asia. As Pirelli is a global player, we know this market demand differentiation very well. Certain approaches, such as tyre labelling, have become a world standard, with several tyre features evolving in the same direction. Premium car manufacturers are also becoming increasingly global, which makes demand more homogeneous.

At the same time, there are several tyre manufacturers from emerging markets that are expanding their manufacturing footprint outside domestic borders, investing in technology, R&D and marketing. We look at them with a lot of respect as the tyre business is very challenging. We still believe, however, that technology frontrunners have a competitive edge in the premium tyre segment, which is the portion of the market that is growing more than twice the global average. Pirelli is the market leader of the premium segment, thanks to the competitive technological edge that we have developed.

We want to continue raising the bar in order to maintain our competitive edge versus established players and newcomers. Pirelli is keeping its technological leadership through continuous investment in Product, Material and Process research and innovation. Our partnerships with top original equipment customers and selected technologically advanced suppliers support this endless improvement process. 

Part of that process is the selection of rubber oils, which play an important role in determining compound performance, processing effort and overall sustainability. The most recent generation of compounds are based on extremely challenging targets; therefore every single element in the formulation is subject to optimisation and development.

The importance of rubber oils is extensive. They are used to set several compound characteristics, from processing behaviour to hysteresis, influencing grip on dry and wet surfaces, and rolling resistance. Moreover rubber oils have an impact on other important performances like tread wear and can be used to drive rubber response as a function of operating temperature. Rubber oils suppliers must offer a broad range of chemical composition, viscosity and thermal properties, to help find the best solution for specific rubber formulations. Availability on a global geographic footprint and extremely high quality standards are key features too.

Name: Luigi Staccoli

Title: Chief Purchasing Officer Pirelli Tyres.

Background: Since May 2012, Luigi Staccoli has served as Chief Purchasing Officer at Pirelli. He joined the company in 2010 as Raw Materials Purchasing Director after eight years at Bridgestone. He lives in Milan, Italy.

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