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2013 U.S. Original Equipment Tire Customer Satisfaction Study Results

3/29/2013
Automakers are looking more often to run-flat or low-rolling resistance tires to help their vehicles achieve better fuel efficiency. However, that efficiency comes at the cost of reduced levels of customer satisfaction, according to the recently released J.D. Power and Associates 2013 U.S. Original Equipment Tire Customer Satisfaction Study.SM Automakers tend to use run-flat tires primarily on their luxury and performance sport models, but the study finds that overall satisfaction with run-flat tires is lower than with standard tires.

Satisfaction among owners of luxury vehicles with run-flat tires is 728 (on a 1,000-point scale), compared with 739 among those who own luxury vehicles with standard tires. The gap is even more pronounced among owners of performance sports vehicles, among whom satisfaction is 665 with run-flat tires vs. 732 with standard tires.

This is almost certainly due in part to the fact that 31% of customers whose vehicle is equipped with run-flat tires have had to replace at least one tire during the first 2 years of ownership, compared with just 19% of those whose vehicle is equipped with standard tires. In addition, customers with vehicles fitted with standard tires replace their tires after an average of 22,559 miles, more than 6,000 miles beyond the average life of run-flat tires. Customers with run-flat tires are nearly twice as likely as those with standard tires to replace a tire due to a flat or blowout. Moreover, run-flat tires cannot be repaired and often need to be replaced in pairs rather than as a single tire.

"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.

"Owners of performance sports cars with run-flat tires say they 'definitely will' recommend their tire brand to friends and family only half as often as those whose car is equipped with standard tires: 14% vs. 28%, respectively. That has a potentially tremendous financial impact on tire manufacturers," said Gruber.

Furthermore, research conducted by J.D. Power's Consumer Insights and Strategy Group to track social media activity surrounding these tires finds that many consumers are concerned that equipping their vehicles with low-rolling resistance tires might mean less traction and durability in exchange for better gas mileage.

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

The 2013 U.S. Original Equipment Tire Customer Satisfaction Study measures tire owner satisfaction in four vehicle segments: luxury, passenger car, performance sport, and truck/utility. The study examines four factors: tire wearability; tire appearance; tire traction/handling; and tire ride. Rankings are based on owner experiences with their tires after 2 years of vehicle ownership.

Overall satisfaction with original equipment tires is 686 in this year's study, unchanged from 2012. Satisfaction increases in all but the tire ride factor, in which satisfaction decreases by 6 points year over year. Overall satisfaction is highest in the luxury segment, with an average score of 738, followed by the performance sport segment at 728. The passenger car and truck/utility segments tie at 676. Among manufacturers, Michelin ranks highest in three of the four segments: luxury (775); passenger car (729); and performance sport (751). Pirelli ranks highest in the truck/utility segment (737).

For a fourth consecutive year, customers are experiencing fewer problems with their tires. On average, customers report 74 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), an improvement from 76 PP100 in 2012 and 84 PP100 in 2011. The most frequently reported problems are road hazard/punctures, slow leaks, excessive road noise, and fast tread wear.

The 2013 U.S. Original Equipment Tire Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from more than 30,835 new-vehicle owners who purchased a 2011 or 2012 model-year vehicle. The study was fielded between October and December 2012.

Based on the study, J.D. Power and Associates offers the following consumer tips:

  • If you're happy with your original tires, replace them with the same tire model; accept no substitutes.
  • For best performance, use summer tires for most of the year, then switch to higher-traction winter tires for the snowy months, instead of using all-season tires year-round.
  • Tires labeled "touring" will generally provide a smoother ride, but will not give the performance of sportier tires. High-performance tires will not have as much traction in snow, but will offer stronger traction and better handling in dry conditions due to their softer compound and tread pattern.

Additional Research:

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