Modern Tire Dealer

MAY 2019

Magazine for the professional tire industry

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M T D M a y 2 0 1 9 36 T he company that brought hybrid ve- hicles to the masses doesn't see them as a fringe component of its business. ey're not limited to the hippies or the hipsters. ey're the future. Toyota Motor Corp. created the world's first mass-produced gas/electric hybrid vehicle. e Prius was introduced in late 1997 in Japan, released worldwide in 2000, and the 2001 Prius made its debut in the U.S. market in August 2000. In 2011 Toyota Motor Sales USA sold its one millionth Prius, and by the middle of 2012 had sold another half million. And the company has extended and improved its hybrid technology to other sedans and SUVs, most recently including the world's best-selling car, the Corolla. e Lexus line has six hybrid options of its own. Mike Donick is the vehicle dynamics senior manager for Toyota Motor North America Inc. He says the proliferation of hybrid technology will continue throughout Toyota's vehicle lineup. "We're planning to grow that exponentially as we move forward. We think hybrid or electrification is growing dramatically," says Donick. "Right now about 9% of our products are hybrid, and we expect to grow that to 15% by 2020. e target is by 2030 it will be 50% globally." Here's one more goal for one of the world's largest automakers: to have an electrified option in every Toyota and Lexus model by 2025. "We have more development projects for North America than we've ever had before, so it's a busy time, but it's an exciting time." PUSHING THE ENVELOPE FOR PERFORMANCE With such an emphasis on alternative fuel vehicles for the future, Modern Tire Dealer turned to Toyota to talk about what this means for the development of original equip- ment tires, and ultimately, the replacement tire market. Donick leads a team of 10 engineers that focuses on ride handling vehicle performance, including all of the tire development for Toyota in North America. Most of them work from the 12,000-acre Toyota Arizona Proving Grounds. At any given time two of those engineers are working on tire development — so he estimates tires account for 20% of their work. And a growing amount of that tire work involves fuel efficient products. Donick says Toyota is choosing fuel efficient, low rolling resistant tires for its conventional vehicles, as well as its hybrids. e company's tire research is broken down into two categories — tire develop- ment for new vehicle projects, and overall improvements that result in better tires. e OE work typically stretches over a couple of years with constant back-and-forth between Toyota and its tire manufacturing partners, including Michelin North America Inc. and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. One tire maker creating an OE fitment on a Camry "has probably tried on the order of 40 different designs to come up with the best tire design for that specific application, and that's just from one supplier." Donick says, "We develop tires that are specifically matched to that vehicle; they are purpose built for our performance. We go through many iterations so that the characteristics of that tire are perfectly matched to the characteristics of the vehicle for the best ride comfort, handling, steering feel, fuel economy and rolling resistance, and braking performance." And while Toyota conducts tire research alongside its OE tire makers, it also works on its own. Creating better tires for the future requires a focus on the best balance of targets so the company can accurately predict perfor- mance. Donick says that necessitates a focus on three things: the tire's construction and shape, its compounds, and the tread pattern. With a base of repeated tests and predict- able performance, the company can make educated adjustments. For instance, if it adjusts the angle of a tire belt slightly, "we know what kind of performance change we're going to see in the vehicle." From there, the goal is to push the envelope while "always trying to see how we can get a bigger envelope and have both better soness and better ride comfort. We're trying to optimize the tire in both areas." SERVING THE CONSUMER With its ongoing push into the hybrid mar- ket, it's logical to expect Toyota to remain dedicated to the development of better green tires. But are fuel efficiency and low rolling resistance the first priority at the outset of a new hybrid project? "At a higher level I'd say customer sat- isfaction is priority one, and low rolling resistance is a big piece of it," Donick says. "e way we set our targets and then develop the tires to meet those targets is we start at the customer level. We want the customer to have a certain level of ride comfort, fuel economy, handling performance, snow, wet performance, etc. en we look at the vehicle and tire as a system, and we try to figure out how we can optimize the system to try to get the best overall performance for the customer." One of the trade-offs of a low rolling Tires and the future of hybrids BIGGER LOW ROLLING RESISTANCE TIRES ARE ON THE WAY G r e e n T i r e s Joy Kopcha By PHOTOS COURTESY OF TOYOTA

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