No longer a ‘fast follower’

Cooper accelerates new tire development

by Mike Manges – http://www.moderntiredealer.com/article/story/2010/12/no-longer-a-fast-follower.aspx

“Our goal is to bring newer technology into our products,” says Chuck Yurkovich, Cooper’s vice president, global technical (right), with Steve Sawyer, Cooper’s director, brand/product management. “Our goal is to bring newer technology into our products,” says Chuck Yurkovich, Cooper’s vice

Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. is bringing new tires to market more rapidly than ever in an effort to shed its reputation as a “fast follower,” according to Chuck Yurkovich, Cooper vice president, global technical.

“We’re continuing to very aggressively promote technology,” Yurkovich told MTD during the Global Tire Expo/Specialty Equipment Market Association Show.

New technology and products were the dominant themes at Cooper’s booth. The company displayed four new Cooper brand tires that will launch in 2011, including two additions to the firm’s popular Zeon performance line.

“We are developing many new products because we feel that it’s an opportunity for us to grow and strengthen our share, and also demonstrate the fact that we are a progressive, high-technology company — no longer just a fast follower, as Cooper has traditionally been.”

Cooper’s goal is to infuse new technology into next-generation products “to give the customer a good choice at a reasonable price, but at what we consider to be a tier-one performance level.

“When we develop products,” said Yurkovich, “we always price point to our peers but we test directly against mass market, tier-one players.”

Keep on touring

In addition to the new Zeon tires, Cooper unveiled two light truck tires, the Discoverer A/T 3 and the Discoverer S/T MAXX, during the show. The Discoverer A/T 3 specifically targets SUVs. When available, it will come in 30 SUV sizes and 32 LT sizes.

The SUV market continues to evolve, said Steve Sawyer, director, brand/product management, North American Tire Division, Cooper.

“I think the SUV market has changed its face in terms of actual applications and some sizes and fitments. With the expansion of the power line concept, we’re seeing certain SUV sizes come to fruition in T-rated touring product lines.”

Sawyer also discussed the state of the touring tire segment.

“The biggest demand in that segment has been driven by the economy. We’ve had to focus on the life cycle of our products — not necessarily the life cycle of a product range in general, but a size. It’s making sure you have the right assortment of sizes.”

The most popular touring tire size is 225/60R16. “We’re also seeing a marked increase in 17-inch sizing.”

Supply was another hot topic during the 2010 SEMA Show.

Cooper is working to add capacity not only in the United States, but in Mexico and China, as well, according to Yurkovich.

“We continue to expand heavily at each one of our North American plants. We are literally sold out.

“We’d like to be able to expand faster, but there’s only so much you can do in a certain amount of time,” he notes.

“We’ve done a lot to increase our efficiencies, optimize our curing, and get more units out of our plants.”