DETROIT-No longer will Cadillac owners be in a class by themselves following General Motors Corp.'s decision to extend its bumper-to-bumper warranty to cover the original equipment tires of vehicles in every GM division. The Aug. 9 announcement follows by a year a similar warranty expansion for its Cadillac Motor Car Division, which began to cover OE tires effective with the 1995 models.
Detroit-based GM's commitment to ``customer enthusiasm'' was the reason given for the company's becoming the first automaker to include OE tires as part of its New Vehicle Limited Warranty for all U.S. passenger cars and light-duty trucks, beginning with the 1996 model year.
The company's Saturn Division is the lone exception to the new policy of warranting tires.
Richard J. Bugno, general director, GM North American Service Operations, said the warranty enhancement follows ``the success and customer acceptance of Cadillac's program, (which) proved to us that customers truly appreciated being able to utilize their local (car) dealers for tire adjustments.
``These adjustments. . . can now be made at the GM dealer/retailer's facility or, if they wish, can still be made at the tire dealer.''
``As a show of good will to customers,'' OE tires for 1995 Cadillac models, as well as the Oldsmobile Aurora, are now being covered against defects in material or workmanship for four years/50,000 miles, a GM spokesman said. Previously, those tires were adjusted only by local retail tire dealers.
He added that all 1996 GM vehicles (except Saturn) will carry three-year/36,000-mile coverage.
The automaker will offer some training to its dealers on tire adjustments, he said, though how those will be handled between the tire makers and GM is confidential.
Tire manufacturers affected by the warranty modification are Goodyear and Michelin Americas Small Tires (MAST)-both of which participated in the Cadillac program-as well as Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. (BFS) and Continental General Tire (CGT) Inc.
Goodyear's director of OE sales and marketing, Les Connolly, said the company believes ``GM's new warranty program will enhance the value of our service to our customer, General Motors, and the ultimate customer, the new-vehicle buyer.''
MAST said it expects the new warranty program will ``enhance cooperation'' between GM dealers and tire dealers.
The change in policy simply adds an additional element to the distribution chain, a MAST spokesman said, and GM dealers still will get tires through local tire dealers. The arrangement has ``worked very well'' for Cadillac, he said.
When it was unveiled last year, the Cadillac ``Owner Privileges Program'' was an industry first, offering such things as 24-hour roadside service and a round-the-clock consumer relations hot line. It also eliminated the proration component of the tire makers' new-tire warranty, including tires under the bumper-to-bumper coverage. At that time it was predicted that other GM divisions-and competitors-might follow suit.
Steve Gaut, product publicity manager for Cadillac, recently told TIRE BUSINESS that, to his knowledge, no Cadillac dealer has added special tire service equipment. GM hasn't encouraged those dealers to get into the tire business, he said, but rather to maintain their relationships with local tire dealers.
And, he added, there have been very few tire failures since the Cadillac warranty's inception.
OE tires supplied to GM by Goodyear (all Goodyear brand) include the Conquest, Invicta GS and several lines of Eagle performance and Wrangler light truck tires.
The principal lines CGT supplies (all General brand) are the: AmeriTech ST; XP2000 AS; Ameri G4S; and the GenSeal puncture-sealant tire.
MAST supplies various lines of Michelin, Uniroyal and BFGoodrich brand passenger and light truck tires.
While BFS supplies mostly Firestone-brand OE light truck tires to GM, a BFS spokesman said the company provides 100 percent of Saturn's OE tires, but that division ``administers its warranty program quite differently'' from the rest of GM's units.