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J.D. Power Study Finds Low Customer Satisfaction with Run-Flat Tires

3/29/2013
Customer satisfaction with run-flat or low-rolling resistance tires is lower than satisfaction with standard tires, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2013 U.S. Original Equipment Tire Customer Satisfaction Study.SM Automakers are increasingly turning to run-flat and low-rolling resistance tires to help improve fuel economy and meet Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations.

In particular, the study finds that run-flat tires, which are increasingly fitted on luxury and performance sport vehicles, require more frequent replacement than standard tires. Nearly one-third (31%) of customers whose vehicle is equipped with run-flat tires have had to replace one of the tires, compared with only 19% of those whose vehicle is equipped with standard tires.

Additionally, because run-flat tires cannot be repaired after a puncture and often require replacement in pairs rather than installing a single new tire, customers with run-flat tires are twice as likely to have to replace a tire than are those with standard tires. The study finds that standard tires have an average life of 22,559 miles, more than 6,000 miles beyond the life of run-flat tires.

"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. Run-flat tires are not currently meeting those expectations."

According to the study, dissatisfaction with low-rolling resistance tires centers on concerns that such a design compromises traction and durability in exchange for increased fuel economy. This impression, coupled with an assumption that automakers select the best tires for a vehicle per original equipment specification--which leads consumers to hesitate straying too far from that selection when replacing tires--may partially explain some of the confusion and uncertainty experienced among consumers.

"Consumers don't fully understand the benefit of low-rolling resistance tires. They believe they are forfeiting important aspects of tire performance by opting for low-rolling resistance tires, yet don't know how much improvement in fuel efficiency they should expect in return," said Gruber. "Tire manufacturers may also benefit from advertisements that help educate consumers about the traction and dependability of the tires."

The study examines satisfaction among tire owners after 2 years of ownership in four vehicle segments: luxury, passenger car, performance sport, and truck/utility, with overall satisfaction highest in the luxury segment. Satisfaction is measured in four factors: tire wearability, tire appearance, tire traction/handling, and tire ride.

For the fourth consecutive year, customers report fewer problems with their tires. Further, satisfaction in three of the four factors has increased year over year; however, that improvement is offset by a decline in tire ride satisfaction. The most commonly reported problems with original equipment tires are road hazard/puncture, slow leaks, excessive road noise, and fast tread wear.

Michelin ranks highest in overall satisfaction with tires in all segments except truck/utility, in which Pirelli ranks highest.

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