Ewan has been editor of Retreading Business since 2006 and of Tyre & Rubber Recycling since the magazine was founded. During this period he has become an expert on the global tyre recycling sector. He has many years' experience as an automotive journalist including a period at Tyres & Accessories.
Sailun's Cimbal Discusses Bus and Coach Tyres
Sailun is a fast growing Chinese tyre company with growing market share across all sectors, but this time out we spoke to the manufacturer on the bus and coach sector.
Sailun Sees Bus and Coach as a Potential Growth Market
We asked Sailun’s Stephan Cimbal about the company’s approach to the bus and coach tyre sector in Europe.
Cimbal opened with the comment; "Now these products account for a modest share of our commercial tyre business. It wouldn’t be more than 5%, so of course we view this as a product segment with opportunity to grow and increase our presence."
In Sailun’s approach, we wondered what are the key differences between the demands for coach tyres and the demands for truck tyres and if they saw the same variations between local bus and long-haul coaches, that can be seen in the truck sector between regional and long-haul transport.
"The demands for coach tyres and truck tyres are quite different considering the application and operating conditions," explained Cimbal. "Of course, there is a wide range application specific product in the truck segment, whereas a coach is a served in many cases with a single product.
"Truck tyres typically need to be able to support much heavier loads with increasing weight requirements on both the tractor unit, variation in body specification and trailers. Naturally a coach load is much more predictable.
"Durability is another aspect. Truck tyres in certain applications require design considerations to make them more resistant to damage from hazards, such as mixed terrain, potholes and debris. Coach tyres also need to be durable but typically do not need to withstand as much wear and tear as truck tyres.
"Fuel Efficiency is something demanded for both truck and bus segments but optimising fuel efficiency for truck tyres to reduce operating costs is slightly more prominent as typically intercontinental fleets will be covering larger distances to coaches.
"As for the differences between local bus and long-haul coaches, there may be some variations in demand for tyres, like the truck sector. Local buses may require more frequent stops and starts and may travel shorter distances than long haul coaches. This means that city bus tyres are designed differently with features such as reinforced sidewalls and highest possible level in noise performance and compounds to handle EV drivetrains, while long haul coach tyres will target optimal fuel efficiency and durability."
Having asked that, Cimbal underlined the key criteria for developing a bus or coach tyre looking at ride quality, mileage and if there were different criteria for different markets. For example, are the tyres for Southern Europe the same as for those sold in the Nordic countries?
"The answer is both," says Cimbal. "Naturally fleet operators are always looking to reduce costs where possible and thanks to new technologies that are implemented into our products, we are able to significantly increase product performance in terms of both mileage and fuel consumption in parallel with improving the product experience through development in tyre construction, innovative tread pattern design and significant advancements in compounding. This allows us to bring products to market with properties such as ultra-low rolling resistance, lowering fuel costs and industry leading noise performance for buses operating in urban areas."
As the EV market grows, Cimbal discussed if Sailun were seeing a change in the market due to the increasing number of electric buses and coaches on the road and what criteria were EV operators are asking for.
"Electric buses yes, coaches are not quite there yet so the key criteria fleet operators are seeking are quite different. EV operators in urban city environments require products with technologies to reduce rolling resistance and noise pollution as well as taking steps towards reducing levels of tyre abrasion to meet the clean air zones initiatives that are being set out in many of our cities throughout Europe.
"We have several products in our development schedule that targeted for urban fleets and expect to bring these to market in the coming year."
As a relative newcomer to the European market, Sailun is taking steps to continuously improve its position in the European market. Cimbal touched upon their plans to increase overall market share.
"We are taking steps to improve of offer in this segment and increase market share. We are doing so by introducing new products and expanding our fitments.
"Recently we have been developing our second generation of Truck and Bus products for the European market. This includes a new coach tyre and city bus product for both ICE and EV applications.
"Understanding the changes in the mobility sector and having products targeted to meet the specifications of the latest vehicles and drivetrains is something we are focused on."
Retreading is an important part of many tyre manufacturers’ offers to the industry and we moved onto asking what Sailun’s thoughts were on the retreading of bus and coach tyres.
"We understand whilst product performance remains paramount the movement towards the circular economy is clear and is hugely important. Management of retreads isn’t a business area we are directly involved in at this stage but is on our radar for the near future as we consider how we can grow as a service provider to support our products.
"What we do know is that several retreaders across Europe are using our casings and we have received positive feedback, which gives us a great base for when we are able to expand our own services.”
The retreading topic naturally moved us onto the topic of sustainability and Cimbal was keen to share his opinion.
"This is one of our core values and something we are placing a huge amount of attention on how we can truly move forward in our sustainability journey, both for ourselves as a company initiative but equally importantly as a supplier to our business partners.
"All our latest products undergo extensive testing both in lab conditions and in real-world scenarios so we can understand the true performance we can deliver to our customers. Delivering products with longer life expectancy, reduced fuel costs, lower manufacturing CO2 output to mention a few.
"Additionally, we do have some OE commitments and see moving into 2024 that new legislation will come into force that will require parts and component suppliers to have all their products certified to verify CO2 output. This is a process we are already going though to enable us to continue our partnerships with OEs.
"Overall, we have been moulding our ESG strategy and will continue to do so over these coming years.”
Finally, we asked Cimbal on the EcoPoint 3 technology and the advantages it could create for Sailun in the bus and coach market.
"Our Ecopoint³ technology is something we are immensely proud to be able to bring to market considering it has been a decade or more in development. We are now able to bring products to our partners and customers that compete with the leading brands in the industry with verified performance levels though our various third-party testing partners. Regardless of if that is ultra-low rolling resistance for urban use, softer compounds for Winter products, or reducing tyre abrasion and increasing product life. We feel we are setting a new standard for premium level products at exceptional value and overall, a smart solution for our customers.”