Greener Alternative

Greener Alternative

By TA News Bureau:

As the International Business Director of Vipal Rubber, Leandro Rigon knows the global retreading industry like the back of his hand. Vipal is one of the world´s top manufacturers of tyre retread and tyre inner tube repair products. Worldwide it sells precured treads, machines, gums, cements, and repairing products, including flaps, patches, vulcanizing cements, chemical cleaners, activators for rubber surfaces, catalyzers, and rubber mats, flooring, sheeting, and tiles, as well as protection strips. It has a dealer network in 90 countries on all continents. He speaks to Tyre Asia about Vipal and the trends in the global retreading industry. Excerpts

Vipal has a global business presence across 90 countries. What are your major plans for the Asian region? Do you think that this geography is a restricted market for Vipal in view of rising numbers of local players? How do you plan to expand to this region as you have done in Europe and North America?

Vipal is always looking for expanding its businesses in the global retreading market. That’s in its DNA. Asia is a market that we are constantly studying as it has a huge economy. It is also a market with a very strong retreading background in some of the countries. There seems to have big potential in others where retreading is not a very well-developed activity as yet. There is a huge transport fleet in Asia, and it looks like a very interesting market where retreading is in the transporters’ minds, like in India. Of course, there are still lots to develop just like every other country on this globe. Even here, where retreading is a well developed market, there are still places for improvements which can bump up the retreading volumes. Asia is very competitive market and there are great opportunities. We wouldn’t play at a market like that without a strategy that would assure us a strong position. For that, there are major investments to be done and so it will represent a very complete process from A to Z. We have been seeing different movements in the region and there is some examples that show us how not to do it.

We have noticed that over a period of time Vipal has come up with many innovative retreading products. They are meant to meet the rising demands for specific products, particularly in the context of fast changing regulations in North America and Europe. How do you tailor your products to meet the demands from various geographies?

Being a player in many different markets means that you have to work very hard on adjusting your product portfolios. We have a very wide range of products and it is a big challenge. We also have some agreements with suppliers in order to help us with specific situations that may be tricky when your production is concentrated in only one country. In this way we can overcome several challenges. Our factories are ready to receive high production demands. So there is plenty of flexibility to absorb additional volumes any time. Even though the retreading market faces very competitive scenario due to cheap new tyre offers, we strongly believe that retreading is the best solution and of course it benefits the environment. We are about to start production in our newest factory in Argentina, which will add a production capacity of 900 tons in a very flexible production scenario in terms of precured tread.

With the increasing emphasis on electric vehicles, what are the technological challenges that Vipal faces to meet the market dynamics? Do you think the market for retreads will shrink in the near future when electrification becomes widespread?

Of course the evolution of this world comes through technology and it will happen, no matter what. It will affect every industry and we need to be prepared for that. I believe that tyres will be in use for very long time. Electric vehicles are not a big threat to tyre retreading. More and more “non-tyre” transport solutions will come. However, tyres can and will still be an important part of transport with new technologies. The retreading sector is always looking at cost efficiency and environmental care. The world is constantly evolving not only in technology but also in its ethics. Care for the environment will be more demanding. Retreading is a very good solution in this regard.
As you scan the retread world, what are the future prospects that you see for the retread industry? Do you think it is a sunset industry whose future is dim?
In my view, retreads will always be an option. What is threatening this industry in terms of the aggressive competitiveness cannot stand for a long period if that is under a subsidy plan. In this way, many countries are protecting their own industry and what is certainly dimming the prospects is the way into the big markets. If it becomes fair competition, retreading industry will have the same opportunity to develop itself. Technology and evolution will be available.
Do you think that cheap tyre imports from low-coast tyre producers from Asia, will hurt the retreading industry world-wide?
Cheap tyres have already impacted all corners of the world. There are no boundaries to reach any market nowadays as communication and commerce do not depend on travelling, trade shows and traditional ways of businesses. However, the unfair trade from this industry is damaging the local economies and everyone is worried about it. That’s why many countries are applying import taxes for dumping and curbing subsidy practices. I am not sure how far can the cheap tyre industry stand for less and less volume with the same competitiveness. It doesn’t look so feasible.
What do you think will be the future trends in the retreading sector involving speciality products like OTR/mining tyres? Do you think these are the segments where retreading has brightest future?
I think there is a natural movement towards retreading as far as it is an economical and environmental solution. OTR tyres come with a big impact on both these aspects. There are different ways to reduce environment impact even though the reuse of a tyre can postpone the discard and improve cost efficiency. The world is becoming more competitive every day and costs are constantly monitored. There are lots of benefits in retreading. Even agricultural tyres are in the loop as retreading helps it to improve the cost efficiency on farms.
Your slogan “Retreads improve your triple bottom lines” is very attractive to fleet operators and environmental enthusiasts. What is your observation about the agenda of the future with sustainability being driven by retreads?
The transport industry needs to take a serious look at this issue as it really helps the operation to become more efficient. Earlier there was not much to worry about keeping costs down in order to sustain healthy businesses. However, nowadays to stay in business the challenge is to reduce costs. We need to look at tyres for long term results. Sometimes the cheap option of a low cost tyre will give the wrong impression of economy. When CPK costs are properly calculated, savings will show up with significant differences against cheap tyres. In addition, the use of an efficient tyre reduces down-time operation due to casing failures as cheap tyres structure are built with different bias. All these come together with the environmental advantage with the worldwide attempts to reduce the impact on nature. With retreads transport operations can be greener.

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