Vittoria operation in Thailand
At Mtbr, we've toured quite a few factories and headquarters around the world. Problem is, we rarely see anything being created. We often see stunning 3D printers for prototyping or when we're lucky, components being assembled in house to create a product.
So we feel very privileged to visit two factories in Thailand where Vittoria tires are produced. What we experienced took our breath away in many ways. We didn't know what to expect but what we saw would have exceeded those anyway.
Walk along with us and catch a glimpse of the Vittoria operation. We'll break this up into two parts where this first story will walk you through the factories as we experienced the fascinating tour. The second story will focus on the science and the products created in these facilities.
Given that we were guaranteed to sit in Bangkok traffic as we visited several factories, Vittoria got a bus, hopefully with good tires.
They put out the welcome mat for a group of journalists and partners. The hospitality and pride of ownership displayed was genuine.
President and founder Rudie Campagne led his crew to 'open the kimono' and show the world what they've built.
A Passion Project
Vittoria is a passion project by CEO Rudie Campagne. Taking over the revered brand a few decades ago, he has built up a team and invested millions to create the largest premium tire maker in the world. They sell their own line of road and mountain tires under the Vittoria brand but they also have a massive private label business.
As a private label producer Vittoria, through its production base in Thailand called Lion Tire (Thailand) Co. Ltd., they make tires for some of the world's biggest brands. We asked why the factories are called Lion Tire Company and Rudie said in Thailand, it is considered bad luck to change names. So they kept it the same out of respect for the land and its traditions.
One night in Bangkok
Bangkok is a fascinating city and it was the first time there for Mtbr and many of the journalists. It's hot and humid and it is crowded. From the massive airport, the city spreads out for miles and miles where millions of people call it home. We asked about the population and locals said the census numbers say 9 million people. But they said the real number is more like 12-13 million as folks were sprawled out living everywhere where liveable space exists.
Traffic was difficult as roads and infrastructure were built for a couple of million cars but double that is in use now. Thus scooters and motorcycles were everywhere. Traffic was interesting since although seemingly chaotic, everyone was respectful. Vehicles flowed and you'd rarely hear a honking horn or see an aggressive move.
A couple of interesting tidbits is one, the most popular place to road bike was around the airport. There's a 15k closed paved loop that is one way, extremely safe with one entrance and exit. Ride it but you have to finish at least an entire lap, or be rescued by a shuttle vehicle. The other factoid is locals said to buy a car in the city, you needed to prove that you have a place to park it.
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Respect and Pride
The key thing we learned during our visit the Vittoria in Thailand is the company's respect for the land and the people. They value its traditions and maximize resource and talent where its available. They're a global company with over 1500 employees and the Thai workforce use their talent and work ethic to create great product.
Thus, what we saw were not only smiles from the crew but pride in ownership as well. The factories and testing facilities were organized and immaculate. Works seemed genuinely motivated and displayed skill and professionalism in their tasks. Some fed the rubber into the rollers and some operated lasers to make sure every tire casing was up to spec.
The master profile of the extruded rubber, most likely the Corsa is profiled here and as a sample is taken out of the production line, a laser measures the actual tire and compares it to the spec.
Something called Graphene
You'll hear a lot about graphene as this visit was highlighted by the second version of this wonder material. Vittoria first began developing its Graphene technology in 2013, launching it two years later in 2015. The company found that graphene, an allotrope of carbon, like charcoal and diamond is small enough that it can fill the gaps between rubber molecules to create a stronger compound. Thus it can make rubber better, stronger, lighter. Vittoria uses Graphene in tiny flake powder form and bonds it with the rubber composition of its tires. And now Vittoria is the largest consumer of Graphene in the bike industry using over two tons of it per year. For reference, one gram of graphene is enough for 2,600-square-meter surface of rubber.
Rolling resistance is a true enigma and Vittoria has invested significant resources to understand it and minimize it.
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Science and Graphene 2.0
Vittoria and its partners invested $11 million in the new compound facility located in a new industry zone near Bangkok called 'Detroit for the East' as the car industry started new factories here. A workforce of about 1500 people are producing the tires that will bring Vittoria tires to the next level. CEO Rudie Campagne said at the opening ceremony: "Racing is casing. With our 40 year experience in making cotton carcasses for tubulars, our casings are the best in the world. The next challenge is in compounds."
Bankok, a city of over 10 million people is difficult to traverse by car or bus. On a boat though, traffic flows with ease
Part II in the works
That's the belly of the beast in the heart of Bangkok. Stay tuned for part 2 where you'll learn about the actual tires and designs that you can buy. Vittoria dominates the highest levels of road and gravel. And now, they are bringing this level of science and production to new designs in the mountain bike category.
They crush it with cross-country tires and now their trail and all-mountain tires have arrived.