The launch of the Continental Generation 5 range of truck tyres, the Conti Hybrid HS5 and Conti Hybrid HD5 for steer and drive axles, saw the tyre manufacturer also take the opportunity to push to the forefront their VanContact Ultra and A/S products as part of their overall commercial mobility offerings.
Ralf Benak and Enno Straten See Opportunities in Growing Van Sector
As a reminder, the VanContact Ultra product had been intended for users and fleets looking for a summer tyre that offers enhanced rolling resistance thanks to a tailor-made van compound, great mileage due to its advanced pattern design. and strong sidewall robustness. The tyre is available in rim sizes 15” to 17” and has a speed index rating of R-H.
Additionally, the VanContact A/S Ultra, as the name suggests, was designed for users looking for an all-season product. Its superb rolling resistance and mileage is delivered by Continental’s latest van compound and pattern technology, which also helps the tyre to perform well in snowy conditions. The tyre is also available in rim sizes 15” to 17” and has a speed index rating of Q-H. During the event, the company suggested that the mileage improved on internal benchmarks significantly, whilst also having a small price increase from its predecessor of about 3%.
Ralf Benak, Head of Fleet Solutions EMEA for Continental, underlined the lengths to which the manufacturer’s product developers went through to create the product. “We had an incubator where our development team from the tyre, automotive and product management departments came together and brought different skills before coming up with some great concepts.”
Benak went on to explain that this product had been developed as the manufacturer “hadn’t previously had a tyre for this segment”, and this product was an effort to continue to provide solutions for their fleet customers that don’t just operate thousands of trucks, but vans as well. “The VanContact Ultra line has been developed as we didn’t have a tyre for this segment. Previously we had a great tyre for motorhomes but not for vans or last mile delivery, which is why the enhanced sidewall has really come to the forefront in this product.
“We have customers that operate thousands and thousands of vans over multiple depots with trucks as well. It’s clear that many of our customers need solutions for both trucks and vans, so we have paid a lot of attention to the van product, as we must provide solutions.”
Continental has been keen to stress that both these tyres offer “significantly improved driving comfort and wet weather performance.” The improved rolling resistance qualities come at a key time for commercial fleet operators who are facing a never-ending barrage of cost increases. With fuel costs at a record high level, Continental explained that during the product’s development there had been a big focus on lowest driving costs. Additionally, the high increase in van sales and the growing last delivery sector have created a gap for last mile delivery which the manufacturer is keen to exploit.
This trend was supported by Enno Straten, Head Strategy, Analytics and Marketing (SAM) BA Replacement Tires EMEA. “We will continue to see growth in the van segment, and we think the trends will only get quicker. With innovation being fast and sustainability continuing to grow, I want the product to meet these requirements,” he said.
With sustainability also being a key factor in the development of the VanContract Ultra Series and the importance of retreading as part of Continental’s life cycle solution for truck and bus fleets, Benak spoke positively about the opportunities that lay ahead for retreading in the van sector despite its complexities. “We see a big opportunity with van retreading. The history and perception of retreading gets worse the closer you get to passenger retreads, so it is going to be a process.”
He added, “Retreading van tyres is not a simple matter. From a technical perspective it is easy, but it is a different challenge as it has similar production costs as a truck tyre, but the van tyre costs much less than a truck tyre. That being said, we are looking at it closely from a technology standpoint as well as passenger car retreading as we sincerely believe in the life cycle solution of our tyres.”