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ONE 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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Adrian’s company car is a BMW 3 Series. 

What do you want to achieve at Pirelli Asia? 

Since Pirelli is a premium brand, consumers assume that we only make tyres for luxury and/ or high-performance cars. 

This is a perception that we’re trying to change , as we do have arange of tyres for various needs.

Like a tailor making suits, we see ourselves as offering the perfect fit for any car. For instance, we make different P Zero compounds and tread patterns for various carmakers.

Why haven’t you worked for a car manufacturer yet?

There has always been a natural progression to my career, which is unique. You could say that my deepening expertise when it comes to tyres is what’s keeping me here! [Laughs] 

What was your most memorable road trip? 

I always wanted to drive along the winding mountain roads at the Col de Turini in the Alpes Maritimes, an iconic road and one of the most popular stages of the Monte Carlo Rally. I finally got to experience it during my honeymoon more than 10 years ago! The route is extremely challenging and fun. I truly enjoyed it.