What is ‘tyre homologation’ and does it affect everyday motorists?

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If you own a high performance car the chances are you may be aware of tyre homologation and its relevance.

Pirelli tyres fitted as Original Equipment at Geneva Motor Show 2016

For the less informed, homologation is the process of developing and supplying tyres as approved Original Equipment (OE) for a specific model of vehicle. It can take up to two years and is a complex procedure between the tyre and vehicle manufactures.

Pirelli has placed a huge emphasis on this area of business and has been trumpeting its success at the Geneva Motor Show to coincide with the unveiling of its latest P Zero ultra-high performance tyre.

When the new P Zero version is launched next month it will have an impressive 56 highly coveted OE homologations, including some of the worlds most prestigious cars, such as the Lamborghini Centenario, Pagani Huayra BC and McLaren 570S GT.

Just over half of the “prestige” cars exhibited at the annual motor show and nearly a third of the “premium” cars have Pirelli tyres fitted as Original Equipment, according to the Italian company.

The reason this is commercially so important is that most vehicle manufacturers will recommend that replacement tyres are of the same specification as those chosen as OE by the vehicle manufacturer – which means sales are automatically generated for the tyre market.

If you are not sure if your tyres are specifically matched to your vehicle, one way you can check is to see if they are marked with a letter which indicates they are OE. For example, tyres which have undergone tests and obtained validation by Porsche are then accredited with an “N” specification, while MO denotes the specific marking for Mercedes tyres.

The reason homologation makes sense is this, according to Pirelli: “The advanced performance and technical characteristics of today’s premium and prestige cars can no longer be sustained by identical tyres for every model.

“The ingredients of Pirelli’s perfect fit strategy are dedicated technologies, processes and materials. By blending these elements together, in accordance with the needs that each manufacturer’s engineers identify right from the design phase, Pirelli is able to develop tyres that are tailor-made for each car.”

You could argue it would be like hiring a top racehorse out for children’s rides on Brighton beach. In other words, there are horses for courses and a high performance vehicle is going to respond better when shod with the proper boots.

Horacio Pagani, founder of Pagani Automobili, expressed it more eloquently at the motor show as: “People don’t realise the engineering that goes into a tyre.

“The tyres are the shoes of a car, determining how, when and where a car expresses itself.

“When you create a car that has more than 750 horsepower, it’s a very dangerous object,” he said. “You have to count on what the tyres are doing.”

Pirelli also acknowledged that although only a small percentage of the public knows what homologation is, car buyers seem receptive to the idea. It revealed that while only 16 percent of respondents knew what a homologated tyre was, when asked in a recent survey, once the concept was explained to them, 78 percent said they would be willing to pay more to buy homologated tyres.

Denna Bowman, Head Office

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