GREENVILLE, SC. Michelin Americas Truck Tires customers from the U.S., Canada and Mexico; business partners; and members of the press gathered here last week to celebrate the production of the one millionth Michelin X One tire. Introduced in 2000 (with the M X One XDA and X One XTA) the wide single tire line has since expanded to include a variety of X One tires for different applications and vehicle types.
According to Michelin, fleets have gained up to 10% in fuel efficiency thanks to the X One tires, resulting in more than 63 million gals. of fuel saved. This translates into 639,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions that did not enter the atmosphere. For a trucking fleet with 1,000 trucks, fitting X One tires can lead to a potential savings of 17,000 metric tons of CO2 of emissions per year, or the equivalent of removing 3,400 cars from the road, the company said. (See video from Michelin on Wet Lateral Adherence)
Dick Wilkerson, chairman and president Michelin North America, told the audience that the environmental impact of tires is a major concern and focus for Michelin, from design through sourcing, manufacture, marketing and use to end of life and recycling.
“More than 90% of a tire’s environmental impact occurs when in use due to rolling resistance,” he said. “[On average,] one tank of fuel out of every three is used to overcome rolling resistance. Reducing rolling resistance is a win for the customer, a win for the environment and a win for our company. It is a convergence of everything that’s good.”
Michelin’s X One tires are a part of the EPA Smartway Certified specs, and have been since 2005. According to the company, 96% of X One tire shipments today are for Smartway trucks. Ted Becker, , vice president of marketing, Michelin Americas Truck Tires, noted that Michelin’s X One XDA Energy tire can save up to 7% on fuel compared to the leading competitive brand. In addition to the fuel savings, truck fleets are also realizing weight savings of more than 700 lbs. per truck by using X One tires, he said.
During the celebration in Greenville, Michelin also took the opportunity to thank its X One business partners who helped bring the new tire to market, including Freightliner (now Daimler Trucks North America), Alcoa and Utility Trailers. Pioneering customers who were the first to try wide single tires were also recognized, including Con-Way, which has been using wide base single tires since 2002. “The trust is there,” said Bruce Stockton, vice president Con-Way Truckload. “Every one of our tractors is now on X One tires and by 2011, all our trailers will be, too.”
What makes a company like Michelin that already has a strong brand and reputation choose to bring a new product to market on the strength of a vision? According to Francois Corbin, executive vice president Michelin North America, Inc. and COO Michelin Americans Truck Tires, it has to begin with a commitment to the long-term needs of the customer. “It begins with the customers,” he told Fleet Owner. “We have to ask the question: ‘What are/will be the customers’ expectations long–term?
“No customer would have asked us for that [wide single tires]. You have to start with the knowledge you have of the marketplace, a clear and very structured innovation process and a portfolio of good ideas to potentially develop,” Corbin added.
“We are trying now to accelerate that innovation process,” he notes. “It is very likely that the needs of the transport industry will change over time and it is a part of Michelin’s DNA to innovate.”
According to Corbin, the run-up in diesel prices in 2008, gave the X One a significant sales boost. “We knew when diesel prices went up that sales would increase sharply,” he says. “We had a solution [in the X One tires] that could be implemented readily.”
When it comes to the factors that will drive sales of the next million X One tires, Corbin believes that rising diesel prices will once again play a role, as will the growing focus on the environment.