Winning in all-season: Building a Vector dynasty to last
The relentless pursuit of performance and success. An insight into Goodyear’s all-conquering all-season test winning legacy.
The all-season tire market is growing. An 18% increase in sales over the past half-decade1 shows that drivers are increasingly considering tires designed to perform in all conditions. This demand is driven by several factors, including increased awareness2 of the benefits of all-season tires in countries that have more moderate climates than the traditional full winter tire markets.
Goodyear has a long history of producing industry-leading all-season tires. The brand invented the all-season tire in 1985, with the first iteration of the Goodyear Vector family. Since then, Goodyear has relentlessly pursued the development of a tire that performs all year long, whether in sun, rain or snow.
This focus is akin to a winning sports team continually building on incremental gains to dominate their chosen game. This focus has paid dividends: Goodyear has won more all-season tire tests than any other brand3. The latest member of the Vector dynasty, Vector 4Seasons Gen-3, is already a test winner in its own right4.
Exceeding customer expectations
Sophie Georges is product manager and enterprise project leader (EPL) for all-season tires at Goodyear’s European Innovation Center in Luxembourg. She explains the role of an EPL and her role in orchestrating a winning team: “I’m the link between functions. The marketing team will be studying consumer expectations and trends and the technology team is focused on new materials and innovations. We create a roadmap, align on the objectives and ensure that the deadlines and performance targets are not only met, but match and exceed market requirements.”
Leading German publication Auto Bild awarded Goodyear ‘Top Manufacturer of All-Season Tires’ for the second consecutive year in 2021. Key to this success is Goodyear’s latest all-season tire, the Vector 4Seasons Gen-3, winner of its all-season tire test in both 2020 and 20215. Due to Covid restrictions, Sophie and her colleagues didn’t have the opportunity to celebrate this win like a sports team, but the success clearly motivates the team to drive to the next level: “We are all proud. All the effort, all the pushing, all the tuning of the tire. When we get an award like this it proves we did it for something that really mattered.”
Sophie works closely with her EPL peers on summer and winter tire projects to ensure there is cross-project collaboration and the ability to share best practices and new technologies: “There is regular coordination across the product teams to ensure that we are managing resources, aligning on goals and optimising products. All-season is a complex segment where we aim for a well-balanced tire, without compromise.”
Goodyear also had an electric future in mind when developing Vector 4Seasons Gen-3. With its high load index, low noise levels and the best ‘A’ rating for rolling resistance/efficiency on the EU tire label, it can be fitted on the latest EVs.
As senior manager for all consumer replacement tire development at Goodyear, Sébastien Morin has a deep passion for the importance of tire technology, not least in the all-season sector. “With all-season tires at Goodyear, we are always pushing the limits,” he explains. “We’re proud that it was Goodyear that invented the all-season tire in 1985 and, since then, we have improved every aspect of the product to develop with the evolution of the car market and the increasing demands of consumers. Vector 4Seasons Gen-3 might be the most advanced all-season tire we have ever created, but we can always go further, and we’re already developing the next generation, which requires us to forecast the needs of the car market of tomorrow. We never stop developing, evolving and improving.”
While an all-season tire is designed to perform in almost any conditions the driver comes across, Morin is keen to stress that Goodyear doesn’t approach the development process with a view to compromising between different properties and abilities. “There is no compromise,” he says. “We aim for a level of performance that doesn’t just satisfy, but impresses. We are clear that all-season tires aren’t designed for people who live in the extremes of summer heat or winter conditions, but for most European drivers, they offer a clear solution. Anyone who lives somewhere with mixed conditions, or a driver who deals with moderate winter conditions - that’s who all-season tires are for.”
To prove that Vector 4Seasons Gen-3 is designed without compromise, one only has to consider its Three Peak Mountain Snow Flake (3PMSF) mark. Until recently, this designation was only available on winter tires, marking their ability on snow and ice. With Vector 4Seasons Gen-3, Goodyear was the first tire manufacturer to introduce an all-season tire with both the 3PMSF label and the best level (class A) of rolling resistance for an original equipment (OE) application.
In the most recent Auto Bild test, Vector 4Seasons Gen-3 was the only tire to be given a top ‘green’ rating in all categories, helping it to score Auto Bild’s ‘vorbildlich’ (‘exemplary’) rating6. One critical element in achieving this is the compound.
Claude Jacoby is an R&D associate in the compound technology team. It’s his job to bring together the art of mixing chemicals to contribute to a test-winning tire: “We are a team. We set a target, then define a strategy on how to achieve success. There will be a strategy set for the tread pattern and that will help us define the compound strategy. On Vector 4Seasons Gen-3 it was crucial to have a well-balanced tire that can perform whether it’s in dry braking or traction on snow.”
Goodyear’s compound team has experience in everything from pure wet weather compounds for 340 km/h Le Mans prototypes to extreme winter compounds for an ice-road trucker. This gives Claude and his team a vast menu to choose from. “For example, glass transition (Tg) is when a polymer changes from a rigid glassy material to a more pliable texture,” he explains. “Low Tg polymers are good for tread wear performance and good compound flexibility at low temperature. We can combine this with high silica content to boost wet performance.” Combining the properties of different materials and technology is key for creating a well-balanced tire that is capable of varied applications; the essence of an all-season tire.
Tread into the future
“It’s important that a tire visually communicates what it can do,” explains Sebastien Fontaine, the lead designer at Goodyear’s Advanced Design Studio. “A low rolling resistance tire has to look sleek and energy efficient. A winter tire looks aggressive. An all-season has to look multifunctional.” The tire is becoming increasingly visible on SUVs with greater ground clearance, and Goodyear’s research suggests that consumers want a tire that looks fit for its purpose.
“We propose up to ten candidates to the engineering team,” explains Fontaine. “They will then filter this down to four for 3D modelling. That’s when we turn the inspiration into design. The detail that goes into the tread design to perform in all seasons is incredible.”
Fontaine’s team brings fresh thinking to tire aesthetics, making sure the design of the tire, predominantly with its tread pattern, communicates its purpose while functioning in the best possible way. “It starts with inspiration. Animals, architecture, concept cars or other consumer products open our minds to new possibilities and new shapes. We look at concept cars to ensure our future thinking is ready for the next generation. We take into consideration input from all our customers, including car manufacturers, to always keep improving the product, both from a visual and a performance perspective. Looking to the future, a huge amount of work is going into the block sizes and sequences as these help reduce noise. This is very important in EVs where road noise is more noticeable. Goodyear is at the forefront of innovation in this area.”
Testing to win
Goodyear’s rigorous testing programme is a crucial part of the development process. Frank Schmitz is the chief engineer in applied physical metrology at the Goodyear Innovation Center Luxembourg and, as such, is responsible for the physical laboratories used to test parts of a new tire. “There are three pillars to what we do,” he illustrates. “The first is to test samples of compounds, which we either mix in our lab, or take out of the tires. The demands of the compounds in the sidewall, which doesn’t have contact with the road surface, and the tread, which does, are very different. Secondly, we test tread patterns and designs. The number of the sipes, their position, their orientation - this all matters when it comes to traction performance, and we have to thoroughly test them. Finally, we produce data for simulation work and tire modelling. Each process is different, but all three serve to test and trial the work of our colleagues in different parts of the project team.”
The importance of the testing laboratories is clear, especially when it comes to testing all-season tire materials, which are exposed to various weather conditions. “Having a cold laboratory in-house is very important, because we have complete control over the conditions,” says Schmitz. “We can control the temperature in those rooms from -30°C to room temperature, and even create our own snow. This independence, this flexibility, is crucial for allowing us to test and reproduce conditions as much as necessary. We understand the science of snow - how it changes as it ages, how the weather conditions affect it - and we can reproduce any type of snow to measure how the tire performs.”
Bring all these aspects together and Goodyear’s team of innovators produce an award-winning all-season tire boasting well-balanced capabilities in all conditions, and capable of surpassing the expectations of an ever more demanding consumer. Since inventing the all-season tire in 1985, Goodyear has perfected the recipe, building a dynasty to last with the Vector family. But just like a sports team at the peak of its game, there is no time to rest. To stay at the top of its game, a team has to keep developing and evolving - and that is exactly what the Goodyear all-season team intends to do.
Picture gallery features images of Goodyear Vector 4Seasons Gen-3, testing at Goodyear Innovation Centre Luxembourg, and pictures of media guests discussing tread pattern inspiration with Sebastien Fontaine and compound development with Claude Jacoby.
Video gallery features four videos focusing on compound development, tread design, testing and the Goodyear Winter Lab.
(1) Source: ETRMA, EDW & GFK, Europe inkl. Russia (2021)
(2) Source: ETRMA, EDW & GFK, Europe inkl. Russia (2021) All Season IPSOS study Dec 2019, countries in scope: GER, IT, UK, POL; n=5005
(3) *Based on 53 reviews in magazines from November 2013 to 30.09.2021, conducted by 17 of the leading and independent European tire magazines. The calculation is based on the number of Goodyear test wins in the year round category over all competitors tested. More information under: https://www.goodyear.eu/en_gb/consumer/legal-disclaimer-test-claims.html
(4) Auto Bild issues 39-2020 and 39-2021
(5) Auto Bild issues 39-2020 and 39-2021
(6) Auto Bild issue 42-2021
Goodyear is one of the world's largest tire companies. It employs about 72,000 people and manufactures its products in 55 facilities in 23 countries around the world. Its two Innovation Centers in Akron, Ohio, and Colmar-Berg, Luxembourg, strive to develop state-of-the-art products and services that set the technology and performance standard for the industry. For more information about Goodyear and its products, go to www.goodyear.com/corporate.