Auto Service World
News   December 30, 2002   by Auto Service World

Tires are Auto Shows’ Unsung Heroes, Says Goodyear

The wild tire designs evident on concept cars on display at autoshows, but are an important part of the look, says Bill Egan, head of tire design at The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.
“Like the vehicles they’re on, concept tire designs can get pretty far out — our designers seize these opportunities to really flex the right side of their brains,” says Egan.
During the 2003 auto show season, Goodyear will have concept tires on more than two dozen vehicles at auto shows worldwide, including several at the Greater Los Angles Auto Show Jan. 4-12 and the North American International Auto Show, Jan. 11-19 at Detroit’s Cobo Center. No doubt there will also be some at the Canadian International Autoshow, February 14-23, in Toronto, Ont.
“A first for us will be a Goodyear PAX System tire on a concept vehicle that will debut in Detroit,” said Bill Hopkins, Goodyear vice president for global product marketing and technology planning.
“The laser-carved design, and construction are a spin-off from our joint venture with Michelin and have a distinctive directional, asymmetric tread pattern.” PAX is a run-flat system that incorporates a specially designed wheel and insert that help keep a tire on the wheel and keep the vehicle moving in the event of a complete loss of air pressure. “PAX is an ideal complement to our mobility system strategy,” Hopkins said. “Goodyear, the world’s leading manufacturer and supplier of run-flat tires, started the run-flat revolution with its extended mobility tires — EMT.” There’s a very strong business case for Goodyear’s close working relationships with vehicle manufacturers on concept projects.
“Working with OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) on these projects puts us on the ground floor when they’re looking at different design concepts,” Egan said. “There are several occasions in which we’ve either got new business or morphed a design into an honest-to-goodness production tire,” he said.
The most famous is the Goodyear Aquatred, the world’s first tire with a deep, water-shedding aquachannel. The forerunner to Goodyear’s Aquatred appeared as a concept tire for an early 1980s General Motors Corp. concept car; it was introduced and was wildly successful in the replacement market a decade later.
“The original aquachannel design was pretty radical, and it went on the shelf for a few years,” Egan said. “It was brought out and updated when our marketing team wanted a radically different tire that would shout, ‘wet traction.’ Enter tire engineer Sam Landers, who tweaked the original design to make it more roadworthy, and the rest is history.” Landers now leads the Goodyear team developing the company’s PAX System and other runflat projects. Some concept tire designs follow form more than function, such as the one that looked like a copperhead snake, designed by Bill Ratliff, a 1990 industrial design graduate of Wayne State University in Detroit. “I did those after thinking of how animals in nature are designed to interact with their environment,” Ratliff said. “I figured snakes have to have some pretty decent traction to maneuver the way they do.”
Another is the Batmobile tire, a group effort that included Maxwell, a 1986 Wayne State graduate in industrial design. Yes, they have bat-shaped grooves.
“Those were fun to do,” Maxwell said, “they looked neat but were for ‘show’ only — the Batman producers used more conventional tires in the movies.” Many concept tire offshoots include more highly designed sidewalls. “Just look at the blackwall tire,” Egan said. “In the past, a blackwall was the entry-level tire; now, they’re highly stylized to the point that we try to draw attention to them.” Another tire trend that can be traced to concept vehicles is the onset of larger wheels, which not only have design appeal, but also provide additional performance benefits, including allowing for larger and more efficient brakes. “Now you have to have tires with lower aspect ratios to accommodate these wheels,” Egan said. This means a shorter sidewall — and a smaller palette for tire designers.
“We compensate by adding raised ridges and other stylized elements for added curb and stoplight appeal,” he said. “Tires continue to differentiate themselves and provide vehicle manufacturers and consumers multiple choices,” Egan pointed out. “And talking tires may not be all that far-fetched.”
Tires are now “telling” drivers what their air pressure is via valve stem pressure readers. Goodyear is developing an electronic chip with an antenna that is placed inside the tire and broadcasts pressure, temperature and tire serial number.
“It’s certainly possible that the electronic signal generated could be translated into a human voice that could say, ‘Hey, let’s get some air down here.'”

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