By Jay Prasuhn
The term “handmade” is a rarity in today’s age of automated production. Fewer brands are holding onto their heritage, and are increasingly seeking cheaper, quicker and less labor-intensive production options.
Vittoria Tires has a different take, and the company has managed to keep costs within reason, while maintaining the quality control that has helped build its reputation. The Madone, Italy-based tire manufacturer invited us for a rare visit into its Bangkok, Thailand-based production facility, Lion Tyres, to experience just why Made in Thailand, embossed on every tire tread, is a mark of excellence.
It was company president Rudi Campagne’s idea to move production from Italy to Asia, and it was a savvy one; not only do production costs go down, but everything else improves — particularly staff loyalty. The company provides cafeteria lunches and buses employees to and from work along in addition to offering above-market salaries.
The company currently employs more than 1000 people in Italy, Asia and America, producing 5 million bike tires and 700,000 tubulars, as well as 1.5 million butyl tubes and 350,000 latex tubes.
It also runs production of Vittoria’s mountain bike tire division, Geax. Further, Lion Tyres sublets the expansive factory, filled with massive Italian-made production machines to several major tire brands to produce their own tires. Tires from all brands are prototyped, colored, road-tested, packaged and shipped globally from the Bangkok base.
While the factory does work for others, very little of its production process is handed off to outside companies. Casing is spun, tire compound blends (with rubber procured from Thai rubber trees) are created, tubulars are hand sewn, tires wear tested and final product boxed on premises.
We’ve assembled a gallery for a look into just what goes into making a quality racing tire. Vittoria concluded the tour by putting the assembled media to work, hand-building a Geax mountain bike tire. Final result: it passed QC.