Low-Rolling Resistance, Run-Flat Tires Disappointing Consumers

Zach Gale, News Director, MotorTrend.com, April 2, 2013

For the fourth consecutive year, survey respondents in J.D. Power’s 2013 U.S. Original Equipment Tire Customer Satisfaction Study are reporting fewer problems with OEM tires, but that’s not the trend that’s caught our eye. J.D. Power says satisfaction with low-rolling resistance and run-flat tires is declining.

Michelin ranked highest in the luxury, passenger car, and performance sport segments, while Pirelli took the top spot in the truck/utility segment. The survey results are based on responses from about 30,800 owners of new 2011 and 2012 model-year vehicles, taken between October and December 2012.

While low-rolling resistance tires are appearing on everything from efficient hybrids to the sports-oriented Scion FR-S, J.D. Power thinks consumers could use more information about the popular tire technology. Though such tires are often just one of numerous details automakers use to hit a desired EPA-rated fuel economy number, J.D. Power suggests that many consumers don’t understand how much of a sacrifice they should expect in overall performance for improved fuel economy.

J.D. Power also finds that consumer opinion on run-flat tires is low, as well. In the luxury and performance sport vehicle segments, the company found a sizable decrease in satisfaction when comparing run-flat and standard tires. Run-flat tires must be replaced more frequently than standard tires, and often must be installed in pairs.

“Automakers are trying to reach the next level of fuel economy, and are looking to their suppliers — in this case, tire manufacturers — to help them get there,” said Brent Gruber, director, global automotive division at J.D. Power and Associates. “The challenge is doing this while finding tires that meet customers’ expectations.”

J.D. Power says overall satisfaction with OEM tires didn’t change in this year’s survey. Scores in three of four categories improved, but tire ride satisfaction dipped slightly this year.

As we reported in January, the NHTSA is proposing new tire labels potentially for implementation in 2016, evaluating rolling resistance and possibly exterior tire noise and wet traction performance as well. Read more about the future of NHTSA tire ratings here.

From dropping spare tires altogether to adopting run-flat or low-rolling resistance tires, automakers are looking for any options that can increase fuel economy.

Source: J.D. Power and Associates

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