Take a look inside the average family car, and you’ll find a whole range of gadgets that just a decade or so ago would have been the stuff of science fiction. Massive satnav systems, Bluetooth connectivity and voice controls. Assisted braking, parking and lane-keeping. Heated seats and steering wheels. Each of these things improves the driving experience in its own way. But none of them would be up to much if the car didn’t come equipped with a set of quality tyres. These devices ensure that the ride is smooth and safe, and that the vehicle is able to maintain optimal grip in a range of conditions.
Among the world’s foremost tyre manufacturers is Falken. Like everyone else, they were thrown off balance slightly by the arrival of an unprecedented global pandemic. Fortunately, their parent company, Sumitomo Rubber, had a healthy stock on hand; this buffer protected the company against much of the disruption to the global supply chain.
According to the company’s European COO and President, Markus Bögner, the company’s production in China was halted for a mere ten days during the formative stages of the pandemic. But the company’s international nature means that production can be shifted in response to the medical situation on the ground. This flexibility meant that production was able to continue largely uninterrupted.
Falken is, relatively speaking, quite a young company. It came to be in 1983, with the production of the first Falken tyre, but it wasn’t until five years later that the first office in Europe was opened in Offenbach. From there, things began to accelerate. The company spread to the USA in 1991, and just a decade later became the official sponsor of the iconic Nürburgring. In recent years, the company’s fortunes have risen stratospherically, with a string of major sponsorships and partnerships with major manufacturers like Mercedes. The brand’s global image is on a par with other major manufacturers of car tyres – giants like Continental, Goodyear and Michelin.
The company haven’t just managed to survive the period – they’ve also helped others to do so, through a series of donations to the China Charity General Assembly. Similarly, according to Bögner, they’ve donated just under a hundred thousand sets of medical gloves to the Japanese government. Many of the skills and methods of tyre production can be transferred to other kinds of stretchable plastics.
A recent test by Tyre Reviews put the company’s ZIEX ZE310 EcoRun third in the 205 / 55 R16 size category, beaten only by Continental and Goodyear. In certain categories, it won out overall – these being braking distance in the wet, and resistance to aquaplaning – meaning that it’s a sensible choice during slippery autumn months.