Michelin doubling budget tire sales to combat Chinese makers

Michelin will start pushing harder on its various budget tire lines in a bid to combat the amount of cheap rubber coming out of China, changing up its product mix so that more affordable offerings count for between 25 and 30 percent instead of the current 15-to-20-percent mix.

That increase will come over the next five to ten years, Michelin CEO Jean-Dominique Senard told Automotive News Europe. However, the more affordable rubber won't feature the company's name or iconic mascot, Bibendum. Instead, the budget-friendly tires will be sold under the Tigar, Kormoran and Riken names and will be produced in Serbia for sales across the eastern hemisphere.

The pressure on Michelin is coming not necessarily because Chinese brands are undercutting Michelin's budget offerings, but because the tires are genuinely getting better, according to Rob Simmons, LMC Auto's head of rubber and tire research.

"Chinese tires are scoring higher, particularly for rolling resistance, which helps fuel economy," Simmons told ANE. "Historically, tires in Europe have been good on wet grip, but less good on rolling resistance." Here's hoping increased competition will lead to better quality and attractive pricing, whether from Chinese or European manufacturers.

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