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Drivers turning off run-flats: study

Get a grip: More US car owners are feeling less satisfied with tyres designed to improve fuel efficiency.

Chase for fuel economy may hurt car-makers, JD Power says

General News logo3 Apr 2013

By BARRY PARK

A STUDY of US car owners has found those with run-flat tyres fitted to their vehicles are not as happy as those with conventional hoops.

The JD Power “US Original Equipment Tyre Customer Satisfaction Study” published this week says that while car-makers are attracted to using special tyres as a means of boosting fuel efficiency to meet tougher US emissions standards, the people buying the vehicles don’t like them.

“As auto-makers explore all options to meet the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, they are increasingly looking at the effect of tyres on fuel consumption,” the report said.

“Two key tyre-related actions automakers are taking to improve fuel efficiency are equipping vehicles with run-flat tyres in lieu of a spare tyre, and using low-rolling resistance tyres.

“While potentially improving fuel efficiency, both products are falling short of customer expectations in terms of satisfaction with their tyres,” it said.

A key point of the study’s findings is that customers with run-flat tyres were “twice as likely to have to replace their tyres as are those with standard tyres”.

“Nearly one-third (31%) of customers whose vehicle is equipped with run-flat tyres have had to replace at least one tyre, compared with just 19 percent of those whose vehicle is equipped with standard tyres,” the report says.

The report also notes that run-flat tyres cannot be repaired, and often need to be replaced in pairs rather than as a single tyre.

“In addition, customers with vehicles equipped with standard tyres replace their tyres after an average of 22,559 miles (36,300 kilometres), more than 6000 miles (9700km) beyond the average life of run-flat tyres.”

JD Power said run-flat tyres were primarily being used on luxury and performance sports vehicles.

“In both instances, overall satisfaction with tyres is lower when (luxury and performance sports) vehicles are equipped with run-flat tyres, compared with when they are equipped with standard tyres.

Director of the global automotive division at J.D. Power and Associates Brent Gruber, said owners of performance sports cars with run-flat tyres would only recommend their choice of rubber half as often as owners of cars with standard tyres.

"That has a potentially tremendous financial impact on tire manufacturers," Mr Gruber said.

He said the challenge was for car-makers to try and find fuel-friendly rubber that also lived up to customers’ wants.

“Run-flat tyres are not currently meeting those expectations," Mr Gruber said.

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