FRANKFURT, Germany—The German rubber industry is set for a “difficult phase” as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact suppliers, manufacturers and customers, industry association WDK has reported.
To better understand the overall impact and future state of the rubber industry, ARPM is conducting a weekly Rubber Industry Pulse Survey. This 8-question survey takes less than one minute for leaders to complete, but gives insights into how the rubber industry is faring so far – and what executives are anticipating for the future.
London – Bill Mortel has been announced as recipient of the 2020 Hancock Medal, the biennial Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining (IoM3) award for outstanding service to the rubber industry.
Mortel has served the industry through various roles with the British Rubber and Polyurethane Products Associated, the National Skills Academy for the Process Industries and the institute’s Rubber in Engineering Group since 1992.
At a time when some businesses deemed non-essential by federal and state governments are trying to skirt the rules and guidelines, those in the rubber industry have a mandate to continue churning out products or providing services.
Automotive and transportation sectors remain a key component to keeping the country operating, and the medical and industrial segments use rubber in a wide variety of applications. But the essential uses of rubber are wide and deep.
London – Rubber industry associations in a number of EU states have set up a Covid-19 ‘crisis unit’ under the aegis of the European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturers’ Association (ETRMA).
The initiative, which involves SNCP (France), WDK (Germany), Consorcio del Caucho (Spain), Assogomma (Italy) and other industrial federations, is focused on information-sharing and interfacing with the European Commission.
Frankfurt, Germany –Germany’s rubber industry is set for zero-growth in 2020, after a 4.2% year-on-year decline to €11 billion in 2019, the WDK has forecast.
Both the tire industry and technical rubber segment posted a decrease in sales for last year, according to the German rubber industry association.
Tire deliveries fell 4.4% to €4.5 billion and technical rubber sales dropped 4% to €6.4 billion, said a WdK industry survey issued 4 March.
LONDON—Rubber mixers will have to become more automated and part of “holistic” production set-ups to deal with complexity in both the materials being processed and end use markets, according to Andreas Limper, a senior executive of HF Mixing Group.
There is a continuing rise in the number and types of tires required by the automotive industry as it brings more and more car models onto the market, Limper noted at a recent HF event in Manchester, England to mark 100 years of the Banbury mixer.
The platform, which includes rubber producers, processors, tire makers, and automotive OEs and NGOs, will be a full year in existence in March, noted the environmental lobby group and GPSNR founding member. However, while there has been some good work and increased cooperation among stakeholders, “much more remains to be done,” according to a Jan. 16 statement from the Washington-based group.
Important trends and technologies in all-season and winter tires are detailed in a market report recently released by Smithers. All-Season vs Winter Tires to 2024: A State-of-the-Art Report (Members of TRAC receive 15 per cent discount on all rubber industry market reports produced by Smithers) assesses the key technologies, materials and market drivers that enable tire performance in these two critical product segments, including regulatory, end-use (passenger cars and light trucks) and regional outlooks.
In terms of performance, several technologies account for the differences in all-season vs. winter tires, including materials, physical design, noise control technologies, processing, and modeling/simulation.
These technologies are ranked and detailed in the state-of-the-art report.
The large temperate climate regions of the US and China make all-season tires a standard for most areas except for the northern most regions. Even in many of those areas, and in parts of southern Canada, all-season tires have a high market share, and season-specific tires are less important. This is in contrast to regulatory requirements in Europe and in severe winter weather provinces in Canada where laws or incentives have led to the market bifurcation between summer tires and winter tires.
The role of fuel economy standards
The most important regulatory driver for all-season tires is the OEM vehicle fuel economy standards. These standards are increasing for vehicle OEMs in the EU, Japan, China and North America. Targets for the EU and Japan in the 2025 time frame are rising to over 60 mpg. Originally, US CAFE standards were scheduled to increase to 54.5 mpg in 2025 for passenger cars and 47 mpg as a fleet average, but the standards have been revised downward to 44 mpg and 47 mpg as a fleet average.
The US vehicle market is moving dramatically toward fewer fuel-efficient SUVs/light trucks, which now make up 55% of light duty vehicle sales, even though the US has fuel economy improvements to make to reach new targets. Because tires contribute directly to vehicle fuel economy, automakers will prioritize low-rolling resistance all-season tires in the US for fuel economy gains. In other regions, higher fuel economy standards will drive toward super low-rolling resistance tires.
Winter tire regulation
Europe leads in winter tire regulation, with Germany’s winter tire mandate leading the way. Other EU countries have their own regulations, but because travel among countries is prolific, most consumers use winter tires. In North America, the US does not have a winter tire regulation, and demand for winter tires is concentrated in the northern states. Only in Quebec, Canada, are strict winter tire requirements mandated.
In Asia, Japan’s winter liability laws have encouraged extensive winter tire adoption, while no regulation exists in China. Winter tires are designated by the Alpine snowflake 3MPSF and M+S designations. Winter tire performance is segmented between Nordic/high snow and ice conditions and more moderate Central European winter conditions.
All-weather tires are a new market development gaining interest in Europe; they have also been introduced in North America. They offer winter tire labelling with the Alpine snowflake 3MPSF and year-round performance. Market potential exists to expand the all-weather/four-season tire category in south Central Europe, the northern US, Japan and eventually China.
Climate patterns over the past 50 years have shown increasing temperatures. This is especially important for the future of winter tires and, to some extent, all-season tires. Increasing temperatures have been significant in northern climates, such as the northern US, where the average temperature has increased over 5° Fahrenheit, putting more cities in moderate winter vs. severe winter climates. The temperature change has generally led to decreases in snowfall and increases in rain; these trends are projected to accelerate over time.
The overall long-term trends mean winter tires will need to focus more on wet grip, grip on black ice films, and wet snow performance around freezing instead of heavy and dry snow with thick ice conditions at temperatures significantly below freezing.
A brochure on the All-Season vs Winter Tires to 2024: A State-of-the-Art Report is available at: https://www.smithers.com/services/market-reports/transportation/all-season-vs-winter-tires-to-2024.
After considering a number of factors, such as a changing business environment as well as growing awareness of human rights and environmental considerations, Sumitomo Rubber Group has established its own local organisation for procuring natural rubber. It has done so via its member company Sumitomo Rubber Industries, which this month set up Sumitomo Rubber Singapore Pte. Ltd. This entity, located in the world’s largest natural rubber trading hub, will commence operations in April.