By Denna Bowman
Bridgestone has confirmed the long term lease on its testing ground just outside the Arctic Circle – which has helped shape its new range of winter tyres.
It has enabled the tyres manufacturer to gather vital data to develop improved products.
The Swedish Proving Ground (SPG), which is located at Vidsel, less than 100 km from the Arctic Circle, provides the company with an exclusive winter tyre testing facility for up to 17 weeks a year.
According to Bridgestone: “It has helped test a premium range of tyres which designed to keep motorists on the road in Europe’s varying winter conditions because the facility has the space and technology to allow objective testing measures that analyse vehicle movement quantitatively, enabling engineers to calculate the tyre grip force in contact with the frozen surface.”
The data from the ground, which Bridgestone has used since 2009, provides the platform for much more precise tyre design – found in the new range if winter tyres.
Franco Annunziato, CEO, Bridgestone Europe: “Winter tyres are one of Bridgestone’s strategic product pillars in Europe and the sophisticated and efficient testing of winter tyre technology is essential to our future plans.”
Traditional winter testing has been largely based on ‘subjective’ handling, supported by laboratory simulation and benchmarking, in which the test driver evaluated vehicle behaviour. Typically, the driver allocated scores on a ‘feel’ basis for steering, cornering and overall grip for each tyre tested in any specific condition.
Harsh winter conditions in 2009 and 2010 triggered an explosion of winter tyre demand in Europe. Sales in western and central regions of Europe increased 42 per cent between 2007 and 2011 and have now reached 38 per cent of total car tyre sales in the whole European region.
Demand increased by 20 per cent in 2010 alone, with Bridgestone sales growth exceeding the market rate. Traditionally mild-winter countries, such as the UK, Ireland and the Low Countries, experienced unprecedented sales increases.