LOUISVILLE, KY. The big product news announced by Continental Tire the Americas LLC here at the Mid-America Trucking Show is the first tire in its new Hybrid line— the Hybrid HD3 drive tire— that the tire maker said will meet the needs of fleets that want to place one tire on vehicles that run both linehaul and regional-haul routes.   

“We listened when our customers told us they needed fuel efficiency when they are on the highway, and durability and extended mileage when they’re on regional roads,” explained brand & communications manager Alex Chmiel. “But it’s impossible to think that they can constantly change their tires, even when routes may switch from short to long hauls on a weekly or even daily basis. Our new Conti Hybrid HD3 addresses the needs of this evolving segment in order to provide the best of both worlds from one all-new truck tire.”

According to director of truck tire technologies Libor Heger, advances in Continental engineering have combined to create a tire with exceptional mileage. The Conti Hybrid HD3 is now Continental’s widest dual drive tire at 248 mm. It has a 27/32nds tread depth in a new “regenerating pattern” that is cut in three dimensions. Heger said the combination of these characteristics and a large tread volume allows for long tread life as well as a larger footprint that provides excellent traction when operated on highways.

He said the traction requirements for regional traffic, which often include changing weather conditions and curved roads, have also been addressed via the Hybrid HD3’s tread geometry to provide grip throughout the life of the product.

“The three-dimensional lateral sipes and a directional tread pattern provide more gripping edges on the road surface than a traditional drive tire,” Heger explained. “These sipes also support the tread blocks against forces from the drivetrain, retarder and wheel brake system to achieve the best possible traction and braking force transfer. An open shoulder also gives ideal grip and directional control for this application.”

When operated in long haul conditions, the Hybrid HD3 reduces fuel consumption vs. Conti’s traditional regional- and mileage-oriented drive tires. According to Heger, with advanced tread cap compounding, a self-stabilizing rib-block pattern, and minimized tread deformation from a stiff shoulder, HD3 users can expect a more than 10% improvement in rolling resistance against Conti’s HDR2 and HDL2 DL tires.

The Hybrid HD3 will be available from Continental dealers starting next month in sizes 295/75R22.5, 11R22.5 and 11R24.5. It will become available as a ContiTread retread product in late 2013. According to Conti, both the new tire and ContiTread product will be submitted to the U.S. EPA SmartWay Transport Partnership technology program for low-rolling-resistance verification.

Turning to Conti’s new strategic vision for better serving truck fleet customers, executive vp for truck tires in the Americas Paul Williams said has begun leveraging synergies with other automotive units of parent firm Continental AG family. He referred to this bringing together of engineering and technological strengths as building “One Continental” to benefit fleet customers.

“We have more than 170,000 employees; and nearly one in ten of these are involved in engineering or research and development,” Williams explained. “We have 269 locations in 46 countries. No other tire company has the added value of our automotive divisions that cover Chassis & Safety, Interior and Powertrain, plus our ContiTech partners in the rubber group.

“We’d like customers to think of us not as a tire manufacturer, but rather a provider of the ‘Lowest Overall Driving Costs,’ which is our truck tire brand promise for fleets worldwide,” he continued. ““Through our approach that integrates safety, economic and environmental factors, we can tie in all of the products and services that Continental provides and directly impact 30% more of a fleet’s direct driving costs than we can provide through tires alone.”

Conti’s Commercial Vehicle Tire business unit plans to deliver these lowered driving costs, Williams said, via a new customer-service approach dubbed Conti360º. He said this approach will allow for:

·        Greater transparency, more flexible product development and tires that are “best in class for first life performance and extended retread life”

·        The ability to reach trucking fleets “more than ever before, by doubling the technical support team and aggressively adding sales personnel”

·        More hands-on service—“Conti personnel have already hand-checked more than 47,000 truck tires using the ContiTrack2 tire analysis tool”

And to deliver on these promises, Williams said Conti would take these steps:

·        The truck tire portfolio will be “completely revitalized" over the next four years, with a new sidewall, naming convention, Generation 3 technologies and all new products.

·        Conti will launch its first product in this new portfolio for NAFTA-- the aforementioned Hybrid HD3

·        ContiLifeCycle retreading will continue to grow. He said there are now 26 outlets in the Americas and an additional six licensees will be announced in the coming months

·        Seven additional retreads are expected to be submitted to the U.S. EPA SmartWay Transport Partnership by the end of the year

Williams related out that for the second year at the Mid-America Trucking Show, Continental Commercial Vehicles & Aftermarket is showcasing a range of solutions together with the tire business unit. These featured products include:

·        Continental's VDO RoadLog, “the most cost effective EOBR and compliance tool on the market, with no monthly fees and no long term contracts”

·        Continental 360 Degree Camera Surround System, an intelligent camera system for commercial vehicles that “makes the blind spot visible and enables 360-degree monitoring of the vehicle and its surroundings at a single glance”

·        Continental Flexible Smartphone Docking Station (FSDS) that integrates drivers’ smartphone with their vehicles. “This innovative solution links smartphones and vehicles to make the phone usable in a safe manner while driving”

·        VDO instrumentation, which is “designed to deliver world-class accuracy, reliability and technology at very competitive pricing for medium- and heavy-duty truck applications”

Williams pointed out the new Commercial Vehicle Tire mobile-marketing vehicle-- dubbed the “Conti360º Tour”— is displayed at the Mid-America show and said it ties together products from many of the Continental companies, including Conti truck tires and ContiLifeCycle retreading as well as the Commercial Vehicles & Aftermarket and Body and Security business units of Continental. Included is the ContiPressureCheck  tire- pressure monitoring system, the sale of which is kicking off at the show.

“As ‘One Continental,’ we have benefits that no other truck tire company can match,” Williams concluded. “We are absolutely committed to taking this 360-degree approach, working with our customers hand-in-hand, and bringing them whatever Continental products they need to operate more efficiently and meet their business goals.”

Click on ‘Handle’ to follow David Cullen on Twitter: @Hammer_Lane