Modern Tire Dealer

MAY 2019

Magazine for the professional tire industry

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Page 39 of 69

PHOTO COURTESY OF TOYOTA PHOTO COURTESY OF TOYOTA M T D M a y 2 0 1 9 38 G r e e n T i r e s resistance tire is ride comfort, but Donick says Toyota expects its hybrid vehicles to perform for customers just as its non-hybrids do. at means a hybrid vehicle's suspension system has to be tweaked and developed in a way to compensate for the loss of ride comfort. Once that's complete, the auto maker will set specifications for the tire based on the vehicle's fuel economy. ere are other targets for stopping distance, handling, ride comfort and snow. Another important priority for hybrid vehicles is tire noise. "When the engine's not running it's very quiet, so there's a little additional emphasis on low road noise for hybrid tires." Consumer expectations, and requests, drive the complicated process of setting performance targets, and Donick says it involves four paths of information. When updating a vehicle model, the first goal is to address any customer dis- satisfaction from the previous models. at might come from customer complaints at dealerships, or from warranty problems that were reported. e second step is to look at customer satisfaction rankings, such as those reported by J.D. Power and Associates and media outlets like Consumer Reports. Toyota also conducts interviews with custom- ers, and talks to its dealer staff about what they're hearing from vehicle owners. e final piece is competitive benchmarking. Toyota wants to be competitive or the best in its segment. "Trying to take what the customer wants and converting that into our performance targets is a big part of our job, and a pretty complex part of the job, but it's a very important one." BIGGER GREEN TIRES ARE COMING One thing that's set the expansion of hybrid vehicles apart from the rest of the tire industry has been tire sizing. While the tire industry has focused on larger sized tires— 17-inch and 18-tires have become the leaders — vehicles on hybrid vehicles remain smaller. (e top passenger tire size, 225/65R17, entered the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association's top 10 list of most popular sizes in 2014, and ascended to the top of the list three years later.) e Toyota Prius offers an option with a 17-inch tire, P215/45R17, but since 2010 it's been fitted with P195/65R15 tires. e 2020 Corolla hybrid will debut with the same size. But it might not always be that way. "I think with low rolling resistance tires, as we move forward you'll see them pen- etrate the entire size market, maybe with the exception of very large section widths. We still don't have very much in the plans for your 285 and 295 and up because that large width by nature isn't so efficient for rolling resistance. But in diameter size, I'm confident within four years you'll have 22s that are low rolling resistant." Donick says he thinks the expansion will be led by the auto makers since "we're developing larger vehicles that are also hybrid. ey need to maintain a balance of good styling, performance, wheel diameter, as well as good fuel economy performance." ■ The first alternative fuel and hybrid electric vehi- cles (AFV and HEV) models were introduced in 1991; the market leader Toyota entered the fray at the end of 1997 and the company brought the 2001 Prius to the U.S. in August 2000. Two decades later, for model year 2018, 31 manu- facturers and brands of- fered 203 different models, according to the U.S. De- partment of Energy's Alter- native Fuels Data Center. In the last 28 years, the "Big 3" auto manufactur- ers have introduced almost two-thirds of the alterna- tive fuel vehicles to the marketplace. By 2025, 18% of light vehi- cles produced will be a hy- brid of alternative energy, according to a Specialty Equipment Market Associ- ation Future Trends report. Toyota's Mike Donick says the automaker expects 15% of its products to be hybrid vehicles by 2020. By 2030, the goal is to make hybrids account for half of Toyota's global vehicle production. — Joy Kopcha The rise of hybrids Taking the hybrid technology to the Corolla "is a really important development," Donick says, "but I think it's a piece of our overall puzzle." "Tires are the most important single component for vehicle dynamic performance," says Toyota's Mike Donick. He's spent 14 years working on vehicle dynamics for the automaker.

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