LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Pirelli Tyre S.p.A. plans to begin serving the commercial truck and bus markets in the U.S. and Canada through a new subsidiary, TP Commercial Solutions L.L.C., which the company said will be dedicated to those markets.
Pirelli's move to expand its truck tire business to North America was a corporate decision based on the Italian company's belief that its commercial segment needed to be operating globally, not just regionally as it currently does, the business unit's top executives disclosed last week at the Mid America Trucking Show in Louisville.
To bring the firm's truck tires to North America, Pirelli hired industry veteran Clif Armstrong to head TP Commercial Solutions as its president. Armstrong, who joined Pirelli in January, brings with him more than 20 years of commercial experience, including senior roles with Continental Tire the Americas L.L.C.'s truck tire division.
Armstrong is based at the tire maker's North American headquarters in Rome, Ga.
“Pirelli's strategy for car and light truck products in North America is focused on premium products customized for the particular needs of the market,” Armstrong said in a news release. “With the launch of the commercial truck business, we plan to do the same thing—adapt the excellent technology and leadership of the Pirelli industrial product line to the specifications and demanding requirements of these markets.
“North American fleets have unique needs which require unique designs, sizes and compounding to deliver the premium performance for which the Pirelli brands are known and respected,” he continued. “Entering this market is no easy task, but with the strength of our future product portfolio coupled with the extensive research and development we are devoting to the project, we will provide North American fleets best in class cost performance and services.”
Pirelli has been fleet-testing North American-specific long-haul drive and steer tires with more than 40 fleets in the U.S. and Canada since last fall, Armstrong said, and more recently started tests with some on/off-road products as well. Regional-oriented products will begin testing in the coming months.
Armstrong expects some on/off-road products will be available commercially in the coming months but that the long-haul products likely won't be market ready before the fourth quarter, owing to the time needed to generate sufficient field-test data on these type products. Pirelli also has begun retreading trials on these products to ensure they are compatible with the various retread systems available in North America.
Armstrong and Dino Maggioni, CEO, the Americas for TP Industrial, Pirelli's global commercial unit, declined to quantify Pirelli's sales or market-share aspirations at this time. Armstrong said the launch is a three-year project, with year one devoted to product testing and evaluation. Year two will focus on building a network of dealers.
Pirelli will source most of its truck tires for North America from plants in Santo Andre and Gravatai, Brazil, Maggioni said, although some sizes and types could come from other Pirelli plants. The company owns and operates truck tire manufacturing facilities in Brazil, China, Egypt and Turkey.
Pirelli already sells truck tires in Mexico and Central America.
Armstrong noted that Pirelli has a strong farm and industrial tire program in Europe and Latin America, and that these products likely will part of the TP Commercial's lineup in North America as well.