ON THE ROAD
“Safe when new. Safe when worn”. That’s the plug that Michelin as a brand is trying to introduce to us with the debut of its latest product, the Primacy 4.
And in a large square, on a hot and sunny day in Pattaya, 150 km outside Bangkok, the French tire makers tried to demonstrate to us, the invited media, exactly what they mean by that. Run after run was done using a generic mid-sized sedan, using both new and worn tires to prove that their claim is true.
Everything is made to tailor to Southeast Asia. The compound is tailored. The production is locally made. They are more robust
Michelin’s capabilities in producing high quality tires that ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ is unquestionable, having been in the business for close to 130 years.
But for a country where the average portion of monthly income spent on cars (inclusive of running costs and maintenance) can reach up to 40 percent, versus say the United States, where it’s only at an average of 15 percent, making the right choices for wear and tear bits of your ride is crucial.
In Malaysia, we need to make sure what we spend on will take us the proverbial extra mile, when talking about cars. And thus, Michelin’s new claim is a welcome note to our wallets indeed. A tire that will work well and safely for the duration of its life? Perfect!
We spoke to Pascal Nouvellon, Managing Director of Michelin (Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia) to understand more about how Malaysians shop for tires.
Malaysians caring more about safety now
So how did Michelin get the formula right, given the harsh temperatures and flip-flop weather the tires will have to perform in?
The secret is in how the groves and slats are designed as well as the composition of materials.
“Yes, it’s the main pattern," says Nouvellon. "If you brought in a European compound to a country like Malaysia where it’s hot and humid, the tire will definitely behave in a different manner. That is why we are willing to bring the best for our consumers. We retune our products specifically for Southeast Asia. So, for Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, we design ST versions of our brand specifically.”
And how ‘localised’ are these products? Apparently, all the way.
“The one thing that is important is that the tires that we sell in Malaysia are vastly specific for the Malaysian needs. Everything is made to tailor to Southeast Asia. The compound is tailored. The production is locally made. They are more robust."
When asked about Michelin’s position and rank in the local market, Nouvellon admits that it is not in first place right now. This is despite the company’s newly announced success, climbing up to the top spot in the World’s Most Valuable Tire Brand ranking published in the Brand Finance report.
Nonetheless, it still makes up one of the top four most popular tire brands available in Malaysia - the other three being Bridgestone, Continental and Goodyear.
We are latecomers but we are growing
Despite being a relative latecomer to the market, the company is making up for lost time here by offering a unique product in each sector of the market.
As the Malaysian market becomes more mature, the needs are leaning towards premium products
'As the Malaysian market becomes more mature, the needs are leaning towards premium products. That is why we have seen a significant growth in the past few years, as we are bringing what consumers long for, which are safer products, safer tires - tires that are closer to their needs."
At the presentation in Pattaya, we got a glimpse into the future of tires as how Michelin sees it.
A tire that is airless, renewable and adaptable for use on multiple terrains thanks to advanced 3D printing tech. The research into this possible next generation product has earned Michelin Brand Strength Index score of 86.9 over 100, showing that sustainability and technology initiatives have strengthened the Michelin brand.
But for now, Nouvellon has his targets set for greater brand awareness for Michelin over the next ten years.
“The needs the desire for safety increasing all across the region so we are very optimistic about the fact that we will keep on growing in the coming ten years.”
Michelin - 10 years in Malaysia
As this writer walks away from the Pattaya testing grounds under the smiling gaze of Michelin’s popular mascot Bibendum, he cannot help to think that the company is making good on its promise, as emblazoned in its motto; ‘A Better Way Forward’.
As far as the writer is concerned, looking at what the brand is capable of doing now and the advancements it is promising in the future, this promise is indeed ‘Good when new. Good when worn’.