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Run-flat tyres turn the corner
Mercedes-Benz adds weight to BMW’s tyre of choice
19 Mar 2013
By BARRY PARK
TYRE maker Pirelli has picked 2013 as the turning point for the worldwide adoption of run-flat technology, as Mercedes-Benz joins early adopter BMW in fitting them to its cars.
The company has picked this year as the one that will see the technology gain mainstream acceptance after Mercedes-Benz revealed its city-friendly A-Class hatchback would join the B-Class in using the tyres almost right across the range.
Pirelli Australia deputy managing director Cesar Alarcon told GoAuto that expanding the use of run-flat tyre technology beyond just early adopter BMW would be good for the industry.
“For as long as it has just been BMW (using run-flats), it is just one voice, but now we are hoping it will be many,” Mr Alarcon said.
“With Mercedes-Benz confirming it will use run-flats, I think this year is the turning point for this technology.
“Now we are waiting on the next brands that will follow this trend.”
BMW Australia spokesman Scott Croaker said the German car-maker first introduced run-flat tyres in its mid-size 5 Series limousine in about 2006, and was immediately pilloried for the decision.
“The 5 Series (developed in 2006) was not set up to run with them,” he said, referring to widespread criticism that the first-generation run-flat tyres produced a ride that was nothing short of harsh.
“Since then, we’ve had that many years to develop the suspension and the bushes to improve the way the cars ride,” he said.
Mr Croaker said Mercedes-Benz’s decision to dump conventional tyres in place of run-flat technology, now into about its fifth generation, had proven that BMW’s decision to adopt them early despite the shortcomings was the right one.
Mercedes-Benz Australia spokesman David McCarthy said the luxury car rival had moved to run-flat tyres after the technology had proved itself.
“In the past there has always been a ride quality penalty with run-flats, but they’ve solved that now,” Mr McCarthy said.
“I think as we see time roll on we will see them in more (Mercedes-Benz-badged) products.”
He said he believed buyers would not be too concerned with the higher replacement cost of run-flat tyres, which run thicker sidewalls so that even if the tyre loses pressure, it is still able to drive around – although at a reduced speed and for a limited distance.
The extra material added to the tyre to allow it to be safely driven while flat makes them about 20 per cent more expensive than a conventional hoop.
“It (the replacement cost of a run-flat tyre) is a balance,” Mr McCarthy said. “It may be a factor (for some buyers), but I don’t think it will be many.”
Pirelli Australia marketing manager Alessio Puricelli said the added cost of run-flat technology was like insurance for car owners.
“In the first instance you have that extra bit (of cost), but it gives you peace of mind that maybe the customer doesn’t see right away,” Mr Puricelli said.
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