Mr. Péter Morenth took over the presidency of the Hungarian Tire Association (HTA) just over a year ago. We talked about the industry’s capacity for innovation, lobbying, and smart tires.
– In Hungary, the HTA is backed by 7 companies from the industry – Apollo, Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear, Hankook, Michelin, and Pirelli – who are also competitors in the market. As the chairman, how can you bring these different interests together?
– The leaders of these companies know and recognize each other. We meet regularly with the people who run the companies, if not elsewhere, then at the HTA’s regular meetings. I think – and this has been the case since the beginning – that we need to focus on what we have in common: the environment, sustainability, the importance of R&D, the explosion in energy prices, and our efforts to improve road safety. I am convinced that together we can do much more for these issues than if we were to pursue these goals separately.
– What can they do about external shocks such as energy price explosions or the temporary unavailability of certain raw materials?
– Efficient energy use has always been on the agenda. R&D means not only developing new tires, but also constantly improving the production process itself. This includes optimizing logistics, reducing energy consumption, increasing the recycling rate of used tires, and I could go on and on. You mentioned that the big seven are competitors. That is exactly right, and one of the most important benefits of this is that they are setting a tight pace in developing ever more efficient production systems and launching even better products. The consumer, or practically the whole of society, is the beneficiary of all this. Tires produced today – although it is hard to see at a glance – have much better technical parameters than products produced, let’s say, ten years ago. Coming back to the question: the members of the HTA are global companies with a correspondingly extensive network of contacts, a diversified supply network, and the ability to avoid some of the externalities by redeployment and efficiency gains. The industry’s resilience is illustrated by its ability as it overcomes the crisis created by Covid.
– What are the main trends you see in tire manufacturing?
– The sector is evolving thanks to the growing popularity of alternative drive solutions such as electric vehicles and efforts to make tires greener. One of the main trends is the expected widespread adoption of electric vehicles, which could change the tire supply. These vehicles need tires with different parameters vehicles than those powered by internal combustion engines. In fact, to highlight just one aspect, low rolling resistance is more important than ever, supporting efforts to increase range since the weight of vehicles, even passenger cars, is approaching two tonnes due to the hundreds of kilos of batteries. Another critical trend is sustainability, with tire manufacturers constantly looking for ways to reduce the ecological footprint of tires. To this end, they are using new, environmentally friendly materials to produce tires and are also improving their recyclability. It is also likely that technological advances will increase the role of smart tires, which incorporate sensors that provide information on vehicle condition and driving style, communicate with the car’s control unit, and help improve safety and efficiency, thereby helping to optimize their life cycle. I believe that we are on the verge of a revolution in tire technology and that, in a few years, we will be talking about truly smart tires.
– While the future of the tire industry depends heavily on energy and environmental regulations and technological developments, they also need to keep a watchful eye on the market.
– Absolutely, the customer is king in this market too, and analyzing sales trends is a priority for every large company, and indeed every business. An excellent example of the change in demand is the unbroken interest in SUVs, which is shifting demand towards larger tires. Obviously, the price is important, but for the conscious consumer, sustainability, and energy efficiency are also increasingly important, and tire manufacturers are constantly looking for solutions to help reduce carbon emissions and increase car efficiency. Manufacturers are also embracing a range of new technologies, such as 3D printing and artificial intelligence, as they offer new opportunities for tire development and production. Overall, I see a promising future for the tire industry, but the environment is constantly changing to adapt to market needs and environmental regulations. The industry will be able to adapt to these changes, and the direction of progress is clear: we are moving towards making greener and smarter tires. This could, for example, result in a further reduction in the number of punctures, which are already rare, or, for example, in tires alerting the driver or, in the case of trucks, the dispatcher to a pressure problem with one of the twin wheels mounted on the left rear axle. We have already reported on the HTA website that some of these technologies are already available, and I am convinced that they will soon be widely available to all consumers, reducing vehicle consumption and accidents while increasing tire life.
– When we talk about consumer trends, the inevitable question is: what do you think about four-season tires?
– There is no denying that all-season tires offer a convenient solution because you do not have to switch between winter and summer tires season by season. Such tires contain materials that allow driving in both cold and warm weather conditions; they are also suitable for driving in winter road conditions with certain limitations and offer acceptable performance in summer. However, it should be noted that tires optimized for winter conditions provide better grip, braking, and handling. Many of the member companies of the HTA produce four-season tires, and their quality is improving every year, but for those who regularly drive in winter, travel to the mountains, and generally drive more than the average annual distance of 15 000 km in their home country, I recommend to use of a separate set of winter and summer tires, which provide optimum safety and performance. If you decide to buy four-season tires, it is worth paying attention to quality and choosing a brand that has been on the market for a long time, has reliable references and an established network of service partners. I would like to dispel the misconception that four-season tires are nothing to worry about. To ensure that they wear to ‘replacement maturity’ at about the same time, it is worth repositioning each tire every 7-10,000 km – seasonal replacement is a good opportunity to do this. Regular centring is also a good idea.
– One of the tasks of the HTA is to liaise with Energy Ministry and the decision-making bodies. It means the association lobbies, but what does that actually mean?
– I hope you mean lobbying in an absolutely positive sense! Well, we are in constant consultation with the Ministry of Energy on the emerging recycling concept, not only as a mouthpiece for the tire industry, which employs 6,600 people and accounts for 2% of Hungary’s GDP, but also as a socially engaged organization. The HTA has been a member of the European Tire and Rubber Manufacturers’ Association (ETRMA) since its inception, and we use our membership to promote a wide range of awareness about the tire industry and the products to raise awareness of proper tire use in Hungary. A vehicle tire is not just a component but a component whose conscious use, replacement, and maintenance has a positive impact on the life of society as a whole. Our commitment and goals have remained unchanged for 11 years: safer transport, a better transport culture, and greater protection of our environment. Under the European Commission’s Europe on the Move package, fatalities and severe injuries in the EU could be almost eliminated by 2050. Mobility is at our heart, but nothing is more important than human life. That is what we are working on.
Mr. Péter Morenth graduated from the Eötvös Loránd University Faculty of Humanities. After that, he held senior marketing communications and government relations positions in government agencies, international companies, and professional organizations. He was the founder of several PR and PA communications agencies and was simultaneously a member of the board of the Hungarian Public Relations Association for three years and served as its vice-president. He is a founding member and the recent president of the International Association of Lobbyists and founding member of the PATSZ (Association of Public Affairs Consultants). He has been the Executive Chairman of the Hungarian Tire Association for ten years before he was elected president. In addition to his work, he is the Head of the Consular Mission of the Kingdom of Lesotho in Budapest for 21 years, as honorary consul, and for many years he was vice president of the Honorary Consular Board Accredited in Hungary.