WASHINGTON-The National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association has joined most U.S. tire manufacturers in opposition to grading tires for rolling resistance and fuel economy. But MTS Systems Corp., a Minnesota supplier of test systems and equipment, told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that a ``Fuel Economy Grade...is a concept tire dealers can easily show to be valuable to the typical customer.''
MTS also argued the need for indoor Uniform Tire Quality Grading tests, as opposed to the current outdoor testing with course monitoring tires at the San Angelo, Texas, test track.
NTDRA opposition to the Clinton administration proposal came as no surprise. The Private Brand Tire Group, an NTDRA affiliate, also came out against rolling resistance grades for tires.
Furthermore, as the association noted in its June 24 comments to NHTSA, the NTDRA opposes Uniform Tire Quality Grading in general. As early as 1966, when UTQG was first proposed, the association said it believed such a system would be ``completely unworkable and unrealistic,'' and it has not changed its opinion.
A rolling resistance grade would prove financially burdensome to tire manufacturers and dealers alike, according to Philip P. Friedlander Jr., NTDRA executive vice president who believes ``dealer/wholesaler inventory costs would assuredly increase.''
For customers buying replacement tires, low rolling resistance is of small importance, he insisted. ``The added cost of such tires likely could not be recouped through fuel savings, since the vehicle owner would likely not keep the car for the treadlife of the tires,'' he said.
Substituting a rolling resistance grade for the current temperature resistance grade could be dangerous, according to Mr. Friedlander. ``Temperature resistance is a safety-related factor,'' he said. ``The temperature grade assists some tire dealers in choosing tire lines for their customers who live in arid areas of our country where high-speed driving in hot weather is the rule.''
MTS, on the other hand, said a rolling resistance/fuel economy grade would be more useful than a temperature resistance grade.
``(Fuel economy) would become a commonly discussed advantage, leading to selection of more fuel-efficient tires,'' the company said. ``Temperature resistance does not present a concept that would have similarly obvious utility in selecting a replacement tire.''
As for proposed changes in UTQG testing, MTS recommended eliminating course-monitoring tires and moving treadwear tests indoors to a controlled environment.
Such a move would have many advantages over the current testing system, the company claimed. ``The test can focus on the candidate tire by removing such variables as vehicle, driver, road, weather and instrumentation,'' it said. ``A test machine can be designed for long-term consistency and accuracy. (Vehicles and roads are designed for other uses.)''