For successful implementation, the new EU tyre labelling legislation has to overcome the test with retailers who are likely to side-step the responsibility of explaining performance ratings of each tyre to every potential buyer as it will significantly slow down the sales process during busy times Over the past few months, it has proved to be one of the (if not ‘the’ most topical) subjects for debate within the European tyre industry and, in just eight months time, it will become a ‘reality’ and change the sales presentation of tyres in the UK and all EU countries forever.
Yes, of course, I am referring to the new tyre labelling legislation for cars, light commercial and truck tyres which has already been featured in previous editions of Rubber Asia. We now know that in November of this year, all tyres manufactured after July 1, 2012, will need to carry a label providing specific information of three key tyre performance benefits – Rolling Resistance, Wet Grip and Exterior Rolling Noise.
Industry gearing up
There is no doubt that tyre labelling is intended to be a step in the right direction, a step to ensure that tyres sold in the future will be even more efficient and safe. It will also probably draw additional attention to the important role played by tyres in road safety. Tyre manufacturers have gone on record as stating they are gearing up to meet the challenge and, in just a few months time, will be offering ‘labelled’ tyres to wholesalers and distributors throughout the UK and Europe. It is going to be a massive task but one that ‘will’ be met.
Wholesalers and distributors, in turn, will continue to be the ‘hub’ of the industry: They will be working with manufacturers to ensure a regular delivery chain through to the retail market, from leading equity chains right through to the individual tyre dealer.
Test at the retail level
However, it is when the new ‘labelled’ tyre reaches the retail sector that I begin to wonder just how well this new ruling will be implemented. First of all, let us look at your average fast-fit tyre retail outlet that is in the business of selling as many tyres as possible every day in order to make a satisfactory profit. This new EU legislation states that every potential driver wishing to purchase tyres must be properly informed on labelling meaning the retailer is supposed to explain the individual performance ratings of each tyre.
From my own experience, most successful tyre dealers enjoy a steady stream of drivers enquiring about various tyre brands and there is no doubt that this new legislation is going to significantly slow down the sales process. To be honest, if a tyre depot is experiencing a busy period, I can envisage the labelling procedure being conveniently ‘side-stepped’.
Okay, so perhaps it will be up to the consumer to insist on being informed of a particular tyre’s performance. Certainly on current analysis, I do not think so. A recent survey by a leading tyre retailer group has revealed that a staggering 87% of drivers, when questioned about the new tyre labelling law, admitted they knew nothing about it. However, 67% did show an interest and expressed a desire to learn more about the benefits.
However, it is hardly an encouraging statistic and one that I am not surprised by when you consider that the tyre retail business has always been a ‘price-driven’ market. Let us face it, buying tyres is always going to be a ‘distress purchase’ and a majority
of drivers just want to replace a worn tyre with a reasonable brand that is as cheap as possible.
To be fair, one leading UK tyre equity group ATS has recently introduced their own promotional programme to make drivers aware of tyre labelling including designing their own Fiat 500 car to promote the legislation which is currently touring the country.
At the same time, it is a little early for the media (television and radio) to embark on a major educational campaign and perhaps, when the message is eventually relayed on a national basis, it will have some impact. However, at the moment it seems the average driver has no idea what is happening.
Another source of helpful promotion has come from Computer Programme Specialists who provide both tyre retailers and wholesalers with bespoke programmes to handle their tyre business affairs. I recently spoke with Steve Greatrex of TEAM Systems who feels that the industry may well be totally confused by the new regulation and will need expert guidance on how to integrate the law into their current IT system. Therefore, TEAM have introduced all aspects of tyre labelling into their current IT programme and can provide any retailer or wholesaler with valuable guidance on how to make the transition both smooth and hassle free (for further information www.teamsystems.co.uk).
There is no doubt that the new tyre labelling legislation will, in due course, become part of the industry’s trading life. How successful it becomes with retailers and drivers is another matter.