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Pirelli keeps up the P Zero pressure

More traction: With an all new P Zero range launched alongside the existing high-performance tyre line-up, Pirelli is planning to dominate the high-end tyre market.

‘Made to measure’ P Zero range to tighten Pirelli grip on prestige tyre market


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General News logo12 Apr 2016


PIRELLI is keeping a tight grip on its majority stake of the premium and prestige tyre markets both in Australia and overseas, with a new range of model-specific homologated P Zero tyres that will continue to absorb more high-performance vehicles in the coming years.

While off-the-shelf tyres of all brands have previously served performance cars adequately, the continually advancing limits of extreme road cars have prompted a need for tyres designed specifically for individual models – an area Pirelli has dominated, it says.

For 30 years, the iconic Italian tyre-maker has been steadily growing its range of homologated P Zero road car tyres starting with the Ferrari F40 of 1987, but with an increasing demand from some of the world’s most potent car-makers, Pirelli says is has a significant head start on its rivals.

Pirelli’s most recent collaborations have resulted in some of the automotive world’s most regal models, including the Ferrari 488 GTB, Pagani Huayra BC and McLaren 570S, but with car-makers demanding ever increasing performance envelopes, the tyre giant is planning to broaden its line-up of bespoke “made to measure” P Zero models.

In an exclusive interview with GoAuto at the 2016 Pirelli P Zero launch in Portugal, Pirelli global general operations manager Gregorio Borgo said that while its rivals had gone after the easy pickings in lower-end tyre markets, Pirelli pursued the potential in the more premium market.

“If we talk about the prestige part of the business … it’s the part of the market that was growing in the last 20 years by seven times and, even if it is a niche, it is profitable,” he said. “The value of the luxury (disposable income spend) is one trillion Euros and out of this, people are spending four hundred billion Euros on luxury cars.” The Italian tyre-maker is currently ranked fifth among both global and Australian tyre markets, but Mr Borgo explained that by making the decision to specialise in the high end of the tyre market, it has left its four rivals tussling for a small share of the premium segment.

“In this part Pirelli has more than 50 per cent market share. It means all the other four competitors are sharing the remaining 50 per cent so that’s very good for us,” he said.

Pirelli describes products to fit wheels smaller than 17 inches as the “standard” market and, while the manufacturer does compete in the lower-end segment, Mr Borgo said that the premium and prestige end made far more sense for those brands that can compete in it.

“The remaining part of the market – what we call standard – was growing by 50 per cent. Premium: times three, prestige: times seven. If you are present in that niche segment of course everybody knows that is a winning strategy, it is not a secret, but one we can do and the other (brands) they cannot do,” he said.

“Everybody knows the demand is there, but not everybody has the knowledge, the knowhow, the history and the brand to do this.

“Other brands were not neglecting it but they do not have the capacity to do this.” At the top end of the pack, Pirelli’s “prestige” products are designed for the highest-performance cars such as McLaren’s range of mid-engined sportscars as well as its rivals from Ferrari, Lamborghini and others in the segment, but the tyre-maker is also concentrating on the “premium” market, which captures the big three German marques.

“It’s not a secret that BMW, Mercedes and Audi are more successful in China than Peugeot. How many imported Peugeot do you have in Australia? ‘Nothing’, because there is no sense. But there are a lot of Audi, BMW and Mercedes,” he said.

“The point is, there are people (tyre-makers) that are capable to do business with them and people who are less capable. Luckily we are capable.” Over the 30-year history of the P Zero brand, Pirelli has been gradually expanding its range to cover more vehicle models and rim sizes and currently covers three quarters of the models available in the premium and prestige markets.

With more homologated models on the way, the P Zero will spread to 90 per cent of the market by 2017, according to Mr Borgo.

“(There are) 77 sizes available, today we are covering 75 per cent of the market potential. Within year end we will reach 100 sizes covering 90 per cent of the potential market,” he said.

Mr Borgo added that homologated tyres take time to develop and its early adoption of the premium and prestige segments will ensure it stays “one step ahead of the competitor”. He also said more collaborative work with car-makers was ahead.

“When you do these original equipment (tyres) it means two or three years of co-development,” he said. “Now we are involved in the car that will be launching in two or three years’ time. To make an example the Lamborghini Urus, the new SUV, we are already co-developing the car with them and the car will be available in the market of 2018.”

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