By Adam Gosling:

It is high time the various tyre associations considered how to educate the end users on the critical role played by tyres without which we’d be in an immobile world where safety and comfort would be nowhere near what we enjoy these days

Adam Gosling

As an industry, we’ve done ourselves no favours. Yes, a big statement to make, so ask any of your clients: Do they enjoy buying the items that serve them tirelessly and keep them safe? Most, if honest, will answer that tyres are a grudge buy, everyone complains about having to replace their tyres again even though they have given them years of faithful service, kept them safe and comfortable. Tyres are still a grudge purchase. Why?
We’ve failed over the years to educate the motoring public about the benefits that tyres give us, how they keep us safe whilst providing a comfortable ride, even a plush ride when considering the modern radial tyre. Today it seems that purchasing is done mainly on price, “What’s the lowest price you can give us?” Quality is rarely entertained, except by those who demand performance from their tyres such as racing aficionados or drivers of performance cars who appreciate high quality products. In the main, people just want cheap, so we as an industry have not been successful in educating our end users as to why a quality tyre is worth buying.
Auto manufacturers promote their vehicles with safety features prominent, additions that make a driver’s life easier, they understand that functionality partners with form. What does a daily commuter care about the tread pattern on their tyres? Why not? The tyre industry has not bothered to promote the benefits modern tyres actually provide. In considering vehicle emissions, have we the tyre industry promoted using our tyres at the appropriate inflation pressures? The TNO organisation from Europe detailed such savings in their report (TNO 2013 R10986 search this) detailing payback times of less than two years, and that’s considering oil at $100 / barrel and with no catastrophic tyre failures.
Remember pushing your bicycle home because it had a flat tyre? Yes, it was hard work because the rolling resistance of the tyre has increased exponentially. So if there is a single tyre that is down on pressure on our vehicle, would you notice the increased fuel consumption? Probably not, because of the vagaries of city driving. For a fleet of vehicles, be they taxis or trucks, a reduction of 1 – 2% in annual fuel burn equates to large numbers, so why are tyre manufacturers and retailers so afraid to educate the general public?
Having just attended the Asian Business Media Retread Conference and had my prior knowledge of the environmental advantages of using retreads over single use low price tyres confirmed I’m wondering why we, the tyre industry, have not publicized this aspect, to show that we are environmentally aware, that we care about the costs of operating our modern motor vehicles.
The general consideration of retreaded tyres is not very good, yet millions of people use retreaded tyre every day, in high-speed high-load applications. Most commercial aircraft tyres have multiple tread lives. In simple terms, they are retreaded not just once, not just twice but quite often more than 3 times. The travelling public doesn’t bother boarding a plane because it has retreaded tyres fitted yet would never consider putting retreads on their own vehicles. Why? Because we’ve not bothered to educate them as to why our tyres are worthy of purchasing, why our products will provide superior service and sound economics.
Some tyre manufacturers demonstrate their social responsibilities by showing that there is the equivalent of just 4 hand prints supporting our cars, that the tread design of the tyre is critical to the performance of our tyres. These aspects are supported by engineering, large research and development budgets. The rise of the budget-priced product has been to the detriment of quality of our industry, there’s no argument about this. Any product produced on a low budget will not perform as well as a soundly researched and designed product.
The push to have minimum tread depths increased from 1.6 mm to 3 mm is evidence of this. A tyre tread pattern should perform at a similar level for its entire tread life, not just at the start. How many in the general public know why we have tyres with a tread pattern? Anyone with any knowledge of motor racing will understand that a slick tyre, i.e. one with no tread pattern will yield far superior levels of traction than a treaded tyre, in dry conditions. When wet pavement is encountered with a slick tyre, you may as well be driving on ice. Like all aspects of tyre performance, the designer has to account for the worst conditions. Inflation pressure is exactly the same, it has to consider the maximum load the tyre will experience as well as the maximum speed, the worst the tyre will see.
Would you consider attending an event that had semi-deflated party balloons? You’d be asking what’s wrong with the balloons, why are they limping and looking sad? Of course, we’d only have fully inflated balloons; but more than likely, we arrived at the event on tyres that may or may not have been appropriately inflated.
So I ask the question again: Have we, as an industry, actually educated our end users why our products are important to them, how can they save money, how can they keep them safe?
How do we, as an industry, face up to this situation and roll into a single cohesive package, just as we sell our tyres, to promote tyres and the role the humble servant as we know a tyre plays in our societies around the globe?