Benjamin Willotte is 39 years old, he is from the Belgian city of Verviers Benjamin Willotot is 39 years old, he is from the Belgian city of Verviers
Benjamin Willot took over as CEO at Goodyear’s Russian subsidiary several months ago, and so has not yet become accustomed to traffic patterns in Moscow. But he has been working in the world famous tire company for fifteen years - and therefore was ready to answer almost any question posed by both journalists and readers of ZR. RU
ZR. RU: - Mr. Villot, both we and our readers are very interested in the “kitchen” of creating a car. Is a tire manufacturer's choice of tire supplier one of the elements of this “kitchen"? Can you slightly open the veil - how is the process organized? How do different manufacturers differ in their approach to choosing a tire supplier? Is it possible to say that some, for example, are primarily interested in price, others - primarily in quality?
B. V.: - The general scheme of work is one. The manufacturer has a specification for tires for a specific car model. The specification (it can easily fit on a regular sheet of paper) indicates the requirements for rolling resistance, durability, adhesion properties and other basic parameters. The specification is sent to all tire companies that may be interested in deliveries and the car manufacturer considers it possible to cooperate with (you understand that the manufacturer of supercars will not complete their cars with tires of a little-known brand). After that, negotiations begin - separately between engineers, separately between managers discussing volumes of supplies and prices. Here, probably, the differences begin - after all, negotiations with different car manufacturers are held in different ways. But alas, I cannot go into details.
ZR. RU: - But if the parties fail to agree - what often causes this? The price of the question - or maybe, sometimes Goodyear is given tasks that the company cannot fulfill?
BV: - Automakers never require anything supernatural from a technical point of view from tire manufacturers. All of their requests are doable. And commercial issues usually become a stumbling block.
ZR. RU: - There was a lot of noise around Michelin tires created specifically for the Bugatti Veyron supercar. Goodyear had the opportunity to become a tire supplier for this vehicle, was the specification for the appropriate tires sent to the company?
B. V.: - When it comes to such landmark orders, all information is confidential - and I can not answer “yes” or “no” to your question. But let's say this: in the vast majority of cases, if the automaker is preparing to launch a new model (from a small car to a supercar) - he sends one of the requests to Goodyear. For example, a Rolls-Royce Phantom is only equipped with Goodyear tires at the factory.
ZR. RU editor-in-chief Vladimir Solovyov talks with Benjamin Villot ZR. RU editor-in-chief Vladimir Solovyov talks with Benjamin Willot
ZR. RU: - Each new tire is now getting a little better than the previous one. But if we are not talking about gradual improvements, but about technological breakthroughs - in what areas can they be expected? Where is the largest “reserve” for further improvement of technology?
BV: The development and improvement of tires is the search for the perfect balance between the three most important parameters: low rolling resistance, high durability and high grip. It makes no sense to significantly improve one indicator to the detriment of the other two. Therefore, in the field of improving the design of tires and materials, manufacturers move in relatively small steps. Breakthroughs are possible more likely in the field of "additional equipment" of tires. For example, now experts at the Goodyear Research Center in Luxembourg are actively working on Air Maintenance Tires - tires that, with the help of the built-in pump, will themselves maintain the recommended air pressure. Of course, this technology will not appear on the market tomorrow. But there is an interest in it - it is not for nothing that our researchers received grants from the US Department of Energy and one of the European Union institutions in the amount of up to one and a half million dollars …
Question from Veselchak, visitor of ZR. RU: - Manufacturers invest a lot of money in improving the coupling properties of tires. But does that make sense? Doesn't safety depend primarily on driver adequacy? After all, if you ride with your head, you will have time to brake and turn even on the cheapest tires. And the constant media discussion of the topic of how “tires” are “tenacious”, in my opinion, only reduces the adequacy of drivers - people subconsciously start driving more risky by putting “cool” tires. Perhaps it is better to invest the same money in work on tire durability?
B. V.: - Using this logic, we can go far. Let’s then not put airbags and seat belts on cars, we won’t work on stabilization systems - after all, a car is not bought in order to use all this. Understand correctly: releasing and selling tires with good grip, we do not encourage drivers to drive to the limit. But anyone, even the most cautious driver, can be in an extreme situation through no fault of their own - and we are pleased that with Goodyear tires he will have the necessary margin of adhesion to the coating. Again, an extreme situation is a relative concept. And if Goodyear experts did not constantly work to improve grip, many situations that you now consider completely harmless would be extreme. As shown by numerous polls that determine the basic wishes of drivers, consumers in Russia themselves expect enhanced grip especially from winter tires. This is the foundation of safety - and it should not be neglected.
ZR. RU: - By the way, Goodyear traditionally pays special attention to the struggle for road safety. If we summarize the company's many years of experience in this area, what methods have proven to be the most effective?
B. V.: - We prefer to support safety-oriented initiatives sponsored by government or community organizations. Including providing the information we have (the collection of which is ongoing, and not as part of any short-term campaigns) and acting as experts on a variety of issues related to traffic.
Benjamin Willot studied economics and business administration at the universities of Liège (Belgium) and Leicester (UK) Benjamin Willot studied economics and business administration at the universities of Liège (Belgium) and Leicester (UK)
Question from Sayonara, a visitor to ZR. RU: - Does Goodyear plan to return to Formula 1, where many races have been won on the tires of this brand?
BV: - Not just a lot, Goodyear is the most successful tire brand in the history of Formula 1. Our tires brought riders to victory 369 times and no one has exceeded this record yet. But now we do not consider Formula 1 the best option for investing money. In our opinion, it is much more important to invest in research that improves the road tires used by millions of drivers, and not two dozen riders.
Question from naTycuH, visitor of ZR. RU: - Is there a plan to replace the Duragrip tire (the Excellence bus also appeared in the question, but it has already been replaced by the Efficient Grip model - approx. Ed.)
B. V.: - Of course, over time, this model will give way to a new one - but Duragrip appeared on the market not so long ago to plan specific terms for its replacement.
Question from S. Mileshin, a visitor to the site ZR. RU: - Several world famous tire brands have already launched their plants in Russia - but not Goodyear. Does the company have plans to open its production in Russia?
B. V.: - First of all, I want to say that Goodyear regards Russia as a market with a very high potential: this potential is determined by the size of the country, the population, and the active modernization of the fleet. The Russian market is growing, we also want to increase our sales - and by no means by one or two percent a year. There are several ways to this goal; the opening of our own production is one of them. We carefully consider all the options, but unfortunately I can’t share any specifics.
Question from Fondec, user of ZR. RU site: - Do you accept your tires for recycling?
B. V.: - Yes, in Russia there are three Goodyear dealers - in Moscow (Protector-Next), St. Petersburg (Good Wheels) and Tolyatti (Volga Tire Company), which are engaged in tread cutting and tire restoration on our certified equipment. But be sure to clarify that we are talking only about truck tires.
ZR. RU: - Toward the close - a traditional question for those who have recently arrived in Russia. What are your first impressions from our country - positive and negative?
B. V.: - I’m impressed with how diverse the Moscow fleet is: Pobeda, which was released fifty years ago (and operated like a car for every day, and not like a museum exhibit), and an exclusive version of some supercar that you can’t even find Monaco. And by itself, traffic is shocking. I worked in many big cities - from Tokyo to São Paulo, but nowhere does your work schedule depend so much on traffic congestion. In Moscow, when planning your day, be sure to check the traffic jam map!
PS Since the question posted on the website from the representative of Grunwald is related to inter-corporate relations between specific companies, the answer will be made addressedly. A request to the representative of Grunwald who asked the question to contact the editorial office by writing an email to [email protected]