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Review and photos by Mike Schlee
If you have never heard of Sailun tires, don’t worry; you are not alone. Sailun is a relative newcomer to Canada and hopes to make a big splash in the value-based tire market. Yes, in a refreshing twist of honesty, Sailun was the one to point out that they are a value-based tire and not a brand name like Michelin or Goodyear. But not being a large, brand-name tire manufacturer doesn’t mean you can’t produce a great tire. Sailun’s goal isn’t to prove their tires are the best out there, but rather that their tires as just as good as anyone else’s, while being much cheaper to purchase.
Using the marketing mantra of “quality, trust, support,” Sailun hopes to become the largest player within the 25 percent of the global tire market not currently controlled by the ‘Big 5’ tire companies. Hitting this goal is not some sort of pipe dream as Sailun currently sells tires on five continents and the company has set up five global offices worldwide, including Toronto. Within the next few years their total tire sales should equal 20 million annually. Sailun’s main focus is on the replacement tire sector where ‘value brands’ currently hold 41 percent of the market share.
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Sailun tires are manufactured in China, where currently every major tire manufacturer in the world has at least one tire production plant. Due to this and other factors, Sailun wants to make a tire manufacturer’s country of origin no longer relevant as all tire companies are now global. As an example, Sailun does summer and winter tire testing in Canada as our demands on tires differ from those in China. To help with initial testing, though, Sailun is building a full-fledged proving ground in China.
Having a strong company infrastructure is great, but means nothing if your product does not perform well. Only real-world testing would prove whether there is any merit to Sailun’s claim that their tires can perform as well as more costly competitors. So, it was time to put Sailun’s ultra-high performance, unidirectional symmetrical all-season tire to the test: the Z4+AS. Our program was to drive this tire, along with a competitor’s, at various speeds on a wet autocross course, simulated country roads, and a tight race course.
But wait, there is a twist to this test. Instead of being sent around the various courses with full knowledge of what tire we were driving on, the normal procedure for most tire events, we were treated to a blind test. All of the tires we would drive had the names and identifications buffed off of the tire’s sidewalls. Unless you were an expert on tread pattern, which I am not, there was no way to know what tires were fitted to the car during the test until the grand reveal at the end of the day.
As mentioned before, we were here to test out the Z4+AS, an ultra-performance all-season tire. That said, Sailun wanted us to focus on day-to-day driving situations to evaluate these tires rather than pushing their limits at racing speeds. To drive this point home, all tires were attached to pedestrian 2012 Ford Fusions. It was hard to get into the proper mindset as our morning information session was held in the soon-to-be-demolished, old racing control tower at Mosport (now officially Canadian Tire Motorsports Park or CTMP) where mere feet from us the track was alive with Ferrari 430s, Nissan GT-Rs, Porsche 911s, and Dodge Vipers running at full throttle as they thundered down the front straightaway.