might imag­ine that the boss of a lo­cal tyre shop would need to get his hands dirty on a daily ba­sis, but not the lo­cal head of an in­ter­na­tional tyre brand, es­pe­cially when the com­pany in ques­tion is Pirelli.

Adrian Thio, how­ever, is the type of boss who doesn’t mind get­ting his hands dirty. Af­ter all, that’s how the Sin­ga­porean, who is in his late 30s, started his ca­reer in the tyre in­dus­try.

His first job af­ter univer­sity was man­ag­ing a tyre shop, where he changed tyres and learnt how to sell them to cus­tomers.

Af­ter that, Adrian was the gen­eral man­ager for Tyrepac (South East Asia) from 2008 to 2010.

Fol­low­ing that stint, Adrian left Sin­ga­pore to work as a se­nior man­ager for Giti Tire in Shang­hai. From 2010 to 2014, he han­dled the firm’s ad­ver­tis­ing, dis­tri­bu­tion and sales.

Adrian finally moved to Pirelli in 2015. He started as the sales direc­tor for Tai­wan and South Korea, be­fore be­ing ap­pointed as the man­ag­ing direc­tor for both coun­tries.

He finally “flew home” in May last year to over­see Pirelli’s op­er­a­tions in South East Asia.

Apart from telling us about Pirelli, Adrian also tells us what fac­tors de­ter­mine tyre prices and men­tions why he hasn’t worked for a car man­u­fac­turer yet, de­spite be­ing a petrolhead.

Have you al­ways wanted to work for Pirelli?

Yes. Since I started in the tyre in­dus­try, it has al­ways been one of the firms I wanted to work for.

Pirelli is a unique brand. It is al­ways associated with mo­tor­sport and pre­mium cars.

The way Pirelli mar­kets it­self is dif­fer­ent, too. They have a dif­fer­ent feel to their ads.

And since I also like to do things dif­fer­ently, I feel a con­nec­tion there.

You set up Pirelli’s South Korea of­fice. How fierce is the com­pe­ti­tion with the Korean tyre brands?

Korea used to be a closed econ­omy. When I was there two years ago, the coun­try low­ered the taxes for Euro­pean cars. Since many Euro­pean cars have Pirelli tyres as stan­dard, our busi­ness nat­u­rally be­gan grow­ing from there. Korean brands are very en­trenched. But we ac­tu­ally com­ple­ment each other be­cause lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers are aimed at the mass mar­ket, whereas Pirelli caters to the high-end seg­ment.

Con­sumers al­ways want lower tyre prices. Can you tell us the main fac­tors de­ter­min­ing prices?

Well, there’s the price of rub­ber, of course. Rub­ber pro­duc­tion is af­fected by the weather, so we mit­i­gate this by pur­chas­ing stocks on a long-term ba­sis. Steel, ny­lon and Kevlar are also used to make tyres.

Sil­ica is added to the rub­ber com­pound to in­crease the tyres’ grip. How­ever, more sil­ica means the com­po­nents in the mix­ing ma­chines wear out faster. This is why high-per­for­mance tyres cost so much.

How im­por­tant is For­mula 1 to Pirelli?

Most peo­ple think that F1 is just a mar­ket­ing tool. But be­ing in­volved in mo­tor­sport en­ables us to push our tech­no­log­i­cal boundaries. These ad­vance­ments then fil­ter down to our road tyres. An ex­am­ple of this would be our Con­nesso tech­nol­ogy, which has sen­sors embed­ded in our tyres that can tell the driver about pres­sures and wear.

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