Sunday 26 October 2014

Firestone gets back in groove as iconic brand targets 'Destination' comeback

Eddie Cunningham, Valencia

Published 18/06/2014 | 02:30

Firestone is on the comeback trail.
Firestone is pushing safety and harder wearing features of its tyres.

NAMES come and go, some fade from the public eye never to return. Some are revitalised.

That's what has happened with the famous tyre brand, Firestone.

Amid hope, celebration, a degree of chaos and lots of wasted time, we ended up sampling the first tyre of the new order on a 'test track' of our own making. The world of tyres can be a strange one sometimes. But it is mostly informative and fun.

And, really, this wasn't that much about the new Destination HP tyre for SUVs that they were unveiling.

Sure, it puts the emphasis on wet-braking and safety and getting more out of your tyre. But really it was about carving out a new track for what many regard as an iconic sort of brand.

Whatever way I looked at it, I came to the conclusion that the tyre and new era Firestone go hand in hand.

With the Destination HP, they are focusing on younger owners replacing tyres on cars aged two to four years. The cars targeted include the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage, Dacia Duster, Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V. In all they will roll out 19 sizes of tyre.

They are making a big play on safety in wet conditions with this and have what they call an 'optimised groove distribution' technology to squeeze out water and help avert aquaplaning.

They say that, of course, getting high mileage from your tyres is important – and reckon Destination will go 35pc further – but safety has to be the priority.

And, of course, road conditions and how you drive can determine how many kilometres you end up getting from your tyres.

These were comfortable tyres on our Kia Sportage and coped well with sudden changes of direction, gravelly underfoot conditions and a few ferocious step-ups – think gargantuan speed ramps.

It was nice to witness the revitalisation of an iconic name in such fashion.

Now I know it has been 114 years since the name first appeared but time these days is a bit more precious and I felt we wasted too much of it hanging around. That's the way it goes sometimes in the tyre world.

Now part of the Bridgestone group, Firestone has the sort of ring to it that conjures images of racing cars from older eras.

Mind you, it was created by a man raised on a farm (founded by Harvey Firestone in Akron, Ohio) and has always made tyres for the land. And fast cars (Ray Harroun won the first Indianapolis 500 on Firestone tyres).

Just to give you an idea of how things have changed: at one stage the brand delivered 2,000 sets of tyres to Ford in what was then (1906) the largest single order for tyres in the automobile industry.

They'd do that in a few minutes these days.

Since expanding to Europe, they have enjoyed a fair degree of success on road and track – in 1968 Graham Hill became the first FIA Formula 1 championship winner on Firestone tyres.

Then, in 1988, Bridgestone bought Firestone for $2.6bn (€1.92bn) and became the biggest rubber and tyre company in the world.

So where to from here?

In the short to mid-term they are looking at a winter tyre version of Destination, and a run-flat winter and all-season tyre.

Looks like they are back in the groove big time.

Indo Motoring

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