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James Zhu, Sales Lead, Agricultural Tires Replacement, Bridgestone Europe NV/SA in an interview with LECTURA Press

LECTURA Press interview with James Zhu, Sales Lead, Agricultural Tires Replacement, Bridgestone Europe NV/SA about new products, the main differences between the Asian and European market and key challenges of the tire industry for 2019.

What differs EIMA from other fairs from your point of view?


We choose EIMA to launch our new product because it is the second largest exhibition in Europe. The Agritechnica is the largest fair and EIMA follows, moreover, the time suits EIMA well. Actually, we had a pre-launch of VX-tractor tires at Agritechnica, but the tires were in the testing phase. The sale of the VX-tractor tires has begun at EIMA.

Can you introduce us some highlights, advantages or updates of VX-TRACTOR tires in comparison to the previous series?

The VX-tractor tires are built for long service life thanks to long, wide and deep lugs for more wear-rubber volume. They contain up to 20 percent more lug volume than competitors. The tires show better durability at higher inflation pressures thanks to the reinforced lower sidewall area and superior casing resistance thanks to its premium 6-layer tread belt. The casing is also optimized to minimize internal stress, resulting in greater durability. The VX-tractor tires are fully capable of carrying heavy loads at higher inflation pressure, up to 3.0 bar. The patented involute lug design and larger footprint minimize energy losses, slip and soil disturbance and provides superior traction. The compound is also more environmentally-friendly. The latest compound mix for all Bridgestone tires is partly made from vegetable oils, replacing some petroleum-based oil and, compared to the previous generation, the compound extends the service life by 20 percent.

How long does it take to develop and make a new product for agriculture market? What about the testing?

That is hard to say because every tire testing requires a different period of time. As an example, the developing, manufacturing and testing of the VTX-tractor tires lasted about five years.VX-TRACTOR tire at the EIMA 2018

How many types of tires do you have for Bridgestone and for Firestone and what is so special about your VF-tire technology?

Bridgestone agriculture tires are made since 2014 and we offer 2 types of tires: for tractors and combine harvesters. As for the Firestone brand, we offer 4 types of tires: for tractors, combine harvesters, telehandlers, and sprayers. Last year we launched a new product for Firestone — the tire 65 for tractors with more rubber inside, which leads to a longer life thanks to new lug design. Speaking about Firestone, we provide more than 600 sizes of tires. As regards Bridgestone, we offer 26 sizes for VT-tractor with VF technology, which is optimal for field application and we offer 25 sizes for the VX-tractor at this moment, but we are going to extend the range to 50 sizes. We are using the most advanced technology, which is VF-tire (Very High Flection Tire), designed with more flexed sideways. And because of their larger footprint, the tires reduce soil compaction, thus contributing to a higher yield. Their unique S-LINE bead profile allows greater flexing at lower pressure, thus minimizing soil compaction. The patented lug design minimizes slip and soil disturbance and provides superior traction.

Where do you think are the main differences between the Asian and European market? What is essential for sales, supply or production strategies itself?

Europe is the most advanced continent regarding the agriculture market and technology. I think that the agriculture industry is not so advanced in Asia, yet. That is why a lot of Europe machinery is produced here, but it is exported to Asia. For instance, John Deere built a new factory in China. They are really trying to have a global approach, but you can see that the Asian market for the agriculture industry is not as developed as the European. I come from China and I find today’s Asian market similar to the circumstances at the European market many years ago because there are still many small farms and lots of farmers who don't own larger pieces of land in China. This is why the big machinery is not being sold there that much. In the meantime, China is in drastically changing progress, the number of farmers is
decreasing, and agriculture industrialization is on-going, so the potential is there.

What are currently the key challenges of the tire industry for 2019 in general and for manufacturers and their suppliers in particular?


The main challenge is a changing market. The tractor sales reached its peak in 2013 and since then they are decreasing. Small tractor sales are decreasing because the farmers, in general, don't need a large amount of small tractors but one big. So, the tires become bigger, heavier and technically advanced. We have seen that large agricultural companies have gone more regional instead of global. They manufacture limited models for a particular country to cover the market. The factories are becoming modern and much more flexible in order to be able to produce different types of one regional model instead of manufacturing another one or two models, which would be globally focused. The trend is also that the customers want to choose the brand and the machine to be more flexible and suitable when buying a new machine, so the tires should be flexible as well.

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Source: LECTURA GmbH Verlag