FRANKFURT, Germany-Regrooving, a nearly universal taboo among independent retreading operations, is at the heart of Groupe Michelin's marketing strategy for truck tires in Europe. Advertising the ``Five lives of a Michelin casing,'' the company promotes a cycle of regrooving, retreading, regrooving the first retread, and then retreading a second time as the best way to get the most out of a tire.
The campaign also promotes the casing as the ``performance vehicle,'' something from which a trucker needs to get the most utility. The underlying message is that a Michelin casing is designed for regrooving, and thus is the best suited for this treatment.
In literature on regrooving and retreading aimed at truckers and fleets, Michelin points out the tread life of its truck tires can be extended by as much as one-third, while the cost of regrooving is equal to only about 6 percent of the cost of a new tire; the claims are based on a random survey of more than 1,000 tires on trucks, trailers and buses.
In advertising, Michelin offers an example using its XZA steer-axle tire, retreaded with an XDA tread for drive-axle or trailer use, showing the anticipated mileage for each stage of the tire's life cycle. Each of the two regroovings contributes an estimated 43,400 miles to the tire's life.
In all its literature, Michelin cautions that regrooving is to be carried out only by trained professionals using Michelin-certified methods and equipment. The company marks its tires ``regroovable'' and builds in indicators in the tread pattern that are designed to ensure that regrooving leaves at least 2 mm of tread rubber over the top belt layer.
To back up its claims of casing integrity, Michelin commissioned the independent Battelle Institute to study and evaluate the truck tire retreading market in Germany, where retreads account for 42 percent of aftermarket fitments (1992 data).
The Battelle study, involving 85 fleet owners and 35 retreaders, revealed Michelin casings make up 45 percent of the retread market, nearly three times that of the second most prevalent brand, but a share consistent with Michelin's new-tire market presence.
The study showed retreaders preferred Michelin casings in all criteria except one-price-where the firm's products were judged fourth.
Regrooving casings increases the number of tread miles, lowering the casings' cost-per-mile, Michelin points out.
Tied into the campaign is the fact that Michelin operates a considerable amount of its own mold-cure retreading capacity, known as ``Remix,'' which the company promotes as providing the same quality materials as new Michelin products.
Remix operates on a large industrial scale at several sites across Europe. Michelin is developing its own precured retreading process, while at the same time operating a few Bandag franchises.