GREENVILLE, S.C.—It took Michelin North America Inc. a decade to make and sell a million X One wide-base single truck tires. The next million probably won't take as long.
The fact that Michelin's sales of the tire are running nearly 50 percent ahead of 2009 lends credence to that statement.
The tire maker recently marked the occasion of the millionth X One produced in North America by inviting representatives of a dozen of the firm's largest commercial customers to a ceremony in Greenville. Collectively, these customers operate more than 9,250 tractors and nearly 25,000 trailers.
The customers were among the first to try out the concept and now are switching their fleets on a large-scale basis to the X One concept. That means turning most of their 18-wheelers into 10-wheelers by replacing the traditional dual-tire fitments on the drive and trailer axle positions to the single, wide-base arrangement.
Ted Becker, vice president of marketing, Mich¬elin Americas Truck Tires, said the increased sales are coming both from existing customers—who increasingly are specifying new equipment with the wide-base singles—and new custo-mers.
Independently, representatives from trucking fleets and vehicle makers, who attended the ceremony in Greenville marking the production milestone, indicated the pace of acceptance is increasing rapidly. Michelin now has seven X One models available for various trailer positions and applications.
While the 1 million mark is noteworthy, it represents just 0.5 percent of the 200 million truck and bus tires shipped to U.S. original equipment and replacement market customers during the past decade, according to Rubber Manufacturers Association data.
Francois Corbin, Michelin Americas Truck Tires chief operating officer, declined to quantify what Michelin invested in developing and bringing the X One to market, noting that the company's investment has been on several levels, from basic research to developing and commissioning X One-specific tire assembly equipment.
Michelin makes the X One radial at plants in Spartanburg, S.C., and Waterville, Nova Scotia. Production started at Waterville in 2007 after an $82 million investment there.
Corbin also noted that Michelin's investment in developing the Michelin Retread Technology retreading system and building an MRT service network has been instrumental in the X One's acceptance and growth. There are more than 50 MRT retread plants throughout the U.S. and Canada.
The tire maker points to several reasons why the X One has gained acceptance, including:
— The product's ability to save truckers fuel through lowered rolling resistance and reduced weight vs. dual tires;
— The ability to increase payloads;
— The reduced complexity of inventory management; and
— Enhanced safety through more vehicle stability.
A key to the product's success, the com- pany said, technically is the “Infinicoil” layer—a spiral-wound longitudinal layer of steel wire that provides stability, reduces casing distortions and lengthens casing life.
Other “indirect” benefits fleets have discovered, according to Michelin, include fewer tire failures, longer brake life and enhanced safety because the trucks and trailers behave more predictably.
“Thanks to the X One,” said Bruce Stockton of Con-Way Truckload, “we have fewer tire failures because drivers are checking pressures more than ever before. They can no longer rely on an adjoining tire to carry all of the weight of a tire that is truly flat but not visibly flat to the naked eye.”
Michelin said it continues to develop the concept, working on rubber compounds that promise even lower rolling resistance, more efficient tread patterns that could allow the company to extend tread life, stronger casings and lighter designs.
Michelin's X One lineup in North America consists of seven lines, including the XDA Energy, a drive tire launch-ed in March that Michelin considers the most fuel-efficient offering in the X One range. Others are the XDN2 drive tire; XTA trailer tire; XTE trailer tire for regional applications; XZY3 for on/off-road use; XZU3 for urban, high-scuff applications; and XRV for recreational vehicles.
Michelin also offers five wide-base retread sizes through its MRT network.
The company declined to elaborate on plans for additional products in the X One skein, but Corbin indicated a highway bus fitment could be considered.