We got a chance to visit the TVS Tyres (TVS Srichakra) plant located in Madurai and also got a taste of the test track as well as what goes into making the piece which connects every vehicle to the road surface.
The majority of people owning vehicles would never be bothered about what tyres their rides have as long as they run fine. The statement at the tyre store is typically “Please replace the tyres on this vehicle. Put the most affordable ones”. However, tyres are a very critical part of the vehicle and therefore should be given utmost importance. Also, most would think that the tyre is solely made of rubber and that how hard it could be to make one. Well, once you get to see the process of developing a tyre and manufacturing it, you wouldn’t dare to say that.
The birth of a new tyre design happens on a computer in the present world. A 3D model of various tread patterns is drawn using a software which lets the company put in a lot of data and offers any sort of customisation. Not only the design, the computer can also help adjudge how the tyre will perform under various conditions even before it is made. Once various designs are tested on the computer itself, a few of them enter into the modelling stage wherein a 3D model of the same is made. These models are shown to the customers at the dealer level and a survey is conducted to choose the tread pattern. Therefore, customers are involved at an early stage of tyre production.
Soon after it, tyres go into the production stage which is a long process involving the mixture of various compounds to give the right characteristics to a tyre. All the tyres then undergo rigorous testing within the facility on various machines as well as out on the roads. TVS also has its own test track in Madurai where it tests certain aspects of the tyres and the tyres are also tested at the WABCO track in Chennai. Some tests are conducted abroad as well which are done by Japanese experts. When it comes to developing tyres for OEMs, the company ensures that the tyres are developed according to their specifications and perform optimally. This involves a long R&D process involving experts from other countries too.
TVS has invested in a hi-speed testing machine which can test tyres at speeds of up to 350 km/hr. Since TVS Tyres are mainly into two and three wheeler tyres, the testing speeds never exceed 300 km/hr typically. The brand also makes tractor tyres, industrial pneumatic tyres and other off-the-road tyres which are largely exported to other countries as the market for such products in India is extremely niche. The company keeps innovating constantly to come up with new products which provide better grip and performance to the end customers. Currently, they sell the tyres under two brands in India namely TVS Tyres and EuroGrip which is majorly supplied to Bajaj Auto as standard fitment for their Pulsar series.
We also got an opportunity to test a few 2-wheeler tyres from the brand at their test track. The first vehicle we tested was the Bajaj Pulsar 200 NS which was shod with EuroGrip tyres. These tyres provided decent amount of grip overall but at the corners, they weren’t confidence inspiring and hence we had to restrict the lean angles. Next up was the Honda CBR250R which was shod with a new tyre developed by TVS under the TVS Tyres brand and this was much better than the EuroGrip. Cornering was much more fun with these tyres and they didn’t lose grip even under hard braking. To test the scooter tyre, we went astride the Yamaha Ray which was shod with basic tyres from TVS. Considering these tyres are made for the typical city roads, they provided decent amount of grip at the track as well. But remember, Yamaha’s dynamics are so surefooted that even with average tyres, their bikes perform well.
The company is developing lots of new pattern for various bikes in the Indian market and trust us when we say that a lot of effort is being put into it. The kind of machinery and experts that TVS Tyres has is truly amazing and can be used to develop the best quality tyres but OEMs want tyres on a budget which restricts quality. Also many OEMs want long lasting tyres which compromise on the grip levels since hard compound rubber is used for boasting the longevity. We hope the company develops affordable tyres for superbikes too since currently their tyres cost an arm and then some. With the rising sales of superbikes in India, it would be an excellent proposition for them and would open new doors.