Tires – Interview: the strategy of Hubert Hannezo, CEO Moto at Michelin –

Interview: the strategy of Hubert Hannezo, CEO Moto at Michelin

Tires - Interview: the strategy of Hubert Hannezo, CEO Moto at Michelin -

For Michelin, innovating is the best way to move forward … and to consolidate its position as world number one by opening up to new markets! A strategy explained to us by Hubert Hannezo, the big boss of two-wheelers at the French tire manufacturer.

By launching no less than six new products in the first quarter of 2013, Michelin strikes a blow: in just two years, its entire range of radial tires for road and sports motorcycles will have been renewed (read our and our).

Michelin thus intends to meet all expectations, including those of emerging markets, by providing its "French touch": innovation and technology. From maxi-trail with the Anakee III (and its more off-road version, Anakee Wild) to sports cars who regularly dabble around the circuit with the Power SuperSport, through sporty roadsters with the Pilot Power 3 and small and medium displacement with the Pilot Street Radial, each motorcycle must find a "tire to its rim" at the Bibendum…

Enough to give a smile to Hubert Hannezo, general manager of the two-wheel business of the Michelin group, who returns for MNC on the situation and the future prospects of the French manufacturer..

Site: What is Michelin’s position on the global motorcycle tire market? ?
Hubert Hannezo, Managing Director of the Michelin Group’s two-wheeler activity worldwide : In the radial tire replacement market for motorcycles 600 cc and over, Michelin is the world number one.

M.-N.C: How do you consolidate this position? ?
H. H. : This position is the result of the acceleration of the renewal of our products and also coincides with the launch of Pilot Power in 2004. In my opinion, the shortening of the life cycle of our products adopted over the last ten years has really played a key role : the replacement interval of our large radial ranges has been reduced from four to five years to two to three years.

Michelin motorcycle tires in figures

  • 12,000 hours calculation of simulations devoted to motorcycle tires each year

  • 18-24 months development for a tire

  • 450 prototypes designed each year

  • 500 tests per tester per year (on average)

  • 1000 people attached to the two-wheeler activity at Michelin (113,400 for the whole group)

  • 150 components to make a motorcycle tire

In addition, we have become more efficient, for example, by shortening the time when we decide to launch a new product and the time when it hits the market. At this level, I estimate that we have gained a year compared to ten or fifteen years ago. Finally, we have also invested heavily in research and development, notably by increasing the number of developers. The human factor being a key element, the number of testers has also been revised upwards, as has the number of motorcycles in our test park..

M.-N.C: How much is this investment ?
H. H. : It is quite low if we compare with the Michelin group’s total annual R&D budget. The motorcycle activity represents in fact around ten million euros, while the budget for the group amounts to 622 million euros! However, what seems more important to me is that our investment follows an increasing slope: during the last seven or eight years, the R&D budget of the motorcycle activity has doubled..

M.-N.C: Are there any technology transfers between all the categories of vehicles that the Michelin team (aeronautics, automobiles, heavy goods vehicles, cyclos, civil engineering, agriculture, motorized two-wheelers, etc.) ?
H. H. : Yes. Upstream, first of all: when we do research, our various departments will exchange views in order to pool their skills. For example, if we consider the materials, until now we have only used natural or synthetic rubber, whereas today we are starting to talk about resins or plants in the composition of the tire. However, our two-wheeler activity is too "small" to have the research power necessary for the development of these new technologies. We will therefore learn and benefit from the experience of our colleagues in the "Tourism" branch, in particular.

M.-N.C: What is the impact of the collapse of the motorcycle and scooter market in France and in Europe on your sales volumes? ?
H. H. : We must not lose sight of the fact that the European market increased considerably between 2000 and 2008, before breaking out in 2009. Then it started again in 2010 and 2011 and fell again in 2012. If we considers its evolution over ten or twelve years, so we are still in good years. And since our products have sold well during this period, Michelin suffers relatively little today from the difficulties of the European market. Now, if these difficulties persisted, the situation would have to be reconsidered. On the other hand, Michelin is in the process of strengthening its presence in already "mature" countries such as North America, Japan and Australia, which largely compensates for the recent difficulties of the European market – even if they continue. to accentuate.

Michelin Pilot Street Radial: sus to emerging markets !

Among the six new tires launched by Michelin in 2013, two are openly targeting the growing markets of Asia and South America: the Pilot Street Radial and its diagonal version, the Pilot Street. Technically inspired by the French tire manufacturer’s sport touring tires (tread patterns similar to Pilot Road 2 and use of compounds containing 100% silica), this new range has been designed for small and medium-sized displacement. With its radial structure, the Pilot Street Radial responds to the increased performance observed in the 250 and 300cc segment, like the Ninja 250 and other CBR250s whose sales are taking off in "emerged" countries. According to the Bibendum, the Pilot Street Radial would offer the best grip in the wet and "20%"additional longevity compared to its main competitors. Pilot Street are available from April 1"at a very competitive price", assures Michelin … without giving more details. The Pilot Street Radial is currently only offered in 110/70/17 at the front and in 130/70/17 or 140/70/17 at the rear. The "short" Pilot Street with a diagonal structure is available in sizes ranging from 70/90/14 at the front to 140/70/17 at the rear.

M.-N.C: In addition to redeployment to "mature" countries, the launch of Pilot Street for small and medium-sized motorcycles also seems to indicate that Michelin is also expanding its field of action towards emerging countries. ?
H. H. : Our entry into emerging markets is not only linked to the decline in the European market, it follows our arrival on the Brazilian market, which dates back about seven years. Because it was in Brazil that we first realized that bikers were looking for performance and technicality, even on small and medium-sized motorcycles. And this search for performance has intensified with the increase in engine capacity we have seen: from 100 to 125cc, the market has grown to 150, then 200 and 300cc (Editor’s note: the fact that sales of two-wheelers have tripled in Brazil in ten years has probably also attracted the attention of Michelin!).

For Michelin, this is a new adventure: we have our traditional activity in the "rich" markets that we control, and now we are investing in emerging markets where we intend to distinguish ourselves from local manufacturers – who have relied on a strategy industry to meet the needs – thanks to technology.

"It’s important to be able to say: this tire covers more kilometers"

The goal is to bring something better and the Pilot Street Radial corresponds exactly to this philosophy. (Editor’s note: in Asia, most of the market uses loc (ost) tires with a diagonal structure: the arrival of a technologically advanced radial like the Pilot Street is therefore an event). For my part, I am convinced that the share of the 600cc will be significant within ten years on the emerging markets, and that they will then make the "bridge" with the big engines..

M.-NC: Not so long ago Michelin communicated on the performance of its motorcycle tires, then the focus has evolved into technology, and on your new 2013 range, longevity is at the heart of the message . Is this an adaptation to the difficult economic context ?
H. H. : Longevity and wet grip have always been key points. These are therefore elements on which Michelin is still trying to improve. It is true that we have found solutions to significantly improve these factors in recent years, so we put it forward. In addition, it is true that the concept of mileage is regaining importance because of the economic situation. Today, I believe that I can say to a consumer "with this tire, you do more kilometers than with this one", it is important.

M.-N.C: In the automobile industry, you communicate a lot about the reduction in fuel consumption generated by your Energy tires. Why not on two wheels ?
H. H. : In two-wheelers, the impact of the tire on fuel consumption is significantly less than in a car – and especially in heavy goods vehicles – because of the lower friction. However, technologies change rapidly and who knows if tomorrow this criterion will not become more important? Especially since another aspect must be taken into account: the arrival of electric two-wheelers. Even if it is still difficult to measure their real place in the future, these new vehicles could lead us to focus more on resistance to friction and especially – in my opinion – on the weight of the tires..

"Whenever there is competition, technology advances"

M.-N.C: Michelin abandoned the "queen" competitions of motorcycle sport (WSBK, MotoGP) on the pretext that they had become mono-rubber. Does this strategy not harm the sales of your racing tires? ?
H. H. : For Michelin there are only two reasons for entering high-level competition: image and technology. In terms of image, the competition has effectively served Michelin, in particular to promote the radial technology that we tested in GP in 1984, then introduced in series in 1987. This also allowed us to develop our "image" as a major motorcycle manufacturer , because Michelin was not necessarily perceived as such 20 or 30 years ago.

But today, I do not believe that it is necessary to do more at a high level to improve our image. It is more important to widen our field of sports activities to reach more bikers. Regarding technology, we are convinced that only emulation brings progress: we also note that the times of championships which have become single-brand do not change much … This is not the case for multi-brand competitions where we are present, like the Spanish and Italian speed championships or endurance.

M.-N.C: Would Michelin return to MotoGP if it became open to all manufacturers again? ?
H. H. : (laughs) … We will have to study the context! But if that was the case, it would mean that there would be a race for technology again, because as soon as there is competition, technology advances….

Interview by Alexandre BARDIN

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