Steelbird International, a manufacturer of rubber components and automotive filters, will make two-wheeler and e- rickshaw tyres to mitigate the likely loss from its filter business due to electric vehicles.
“In electric vehicles (EVs) there will be no filters, which is our major business segment. We want to counter the loss of business if EVs are going to replace ICE vehicles. Our core competency is in rubber products, and tyre and tubes were the only rubber products that we were not making. We are going to make them,” Manav Kapur Executive Director, Steelbird International, told AutoParts Asia. Steelbird International will begin tyre production in its new plant near Hyderabad in April 2018. The company had launched its two-wheeler and e-rickshaw tyres during the recent Auto Expo-Component Show in Delhi. Initially, the company will produce tyres in ten different sizes and six different patterns.
E-rickshaw tyre production is a strategic decision for the company as no major players have pursued into it aggressively, though the number of e-rickshaws is on the rise. Now most of the e-rickshaws are using scooter tyres. There are big differences between the two as the role of e-rickshaw tyres is different in terms of speed, payload and design from the scooter tyres.
Scooters can go up to 100 km per hour while the e-rikshaws move around at 30 km. A scooter carries only two people, the e-rikshaw is for five. The scooter tyres move in manoeuverable radius, whereas the rikshaws go flat. For an even wear, e- rickshaws need flat tyres with different engineering design. “We have designed a tyre purely for e-rikshaws,” Kapur said.
The company is in talks with OEMs for the supply of its e-rickshaw tyres. It is setting up a different marketing department for this.
Tyres for two-wheelers will be for the bikes with low-power engines. They will be sold in the aftermarket. Steelbird will have to compete with established players like MRF, Ceat and TVS Srichakra to sell its motorcycle tyres.
“We will take the support of our brand, which has penetrated the market with a network of over 5000 dealers in India and the neighbouring countries. Our brand is very well connected with consumers and mechanics. There is space for everyone,” he said.
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