When Umberto Guidoni – Italy’s most famous astronaut – takes the stage at Pirelli’s Quality Day in Milan, the audience may wonder what journeying into space can teach them about the down-to-earth business of making tyres. Space stations and zero gravity, after all, are miles away from cars and the rubber needed to grip the roads of Planet Earth.
The parallels, however, will soon become clear. There is the obvious need to guarantee the safety of passengers – whether on the road or in space – and make sure they return home safely. But the automotive industry is also facing a range of new disruptive challenges – including the rise of automation and the so-called fourth industrial revolution – Pirelli is, effectively, accelerating into the unknown. “An astronaut sees the Earth from a different perspective,” says Marco Marioni, Pirelli’s Senior Vice President Quality. “They experience a new place and must be prepared for the unexpected. They can be brave because they are competent.”