WASHINGTON-The tire industry, having made arguments for and against tire fuel economy labeling to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, did so again Sept. 25, this time to the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Michelin North America and Multinational Business Services Inc. submitted comments in response to the council's request for comments on President Clinton's Climate Change Action Plan.
Action Item 22 of the plan would establish a rolling resistance grade for replacement tires to promote fuel economy.
Michelin, which persuaded the Clinton administration to adopt the plan, is the only tire maker to support the rolling resistance grade. MBS, representing several other U.S. tire makers, opposes it.
It is ``simply not true'' that Michelin supports the grade merely for competitive advantage, said Kenneth W. Farber, a Washington attorney representing Michelin, in his comments to the CEQ.
``All tire manufacturers supplying to the car manufacturers are making fuel-efficient tires comparable to Michelin's,'' Mr. Farber said. A recent study shows about 90 percent of the public expressed interest in a fuel efficiency grade for replacement tires, he added.
``The proposed rule simply requires labeling; it does not mandate tire producers make tires any different than they presently are doing,'' Mr. Farber said. The proposal also is cost-effective, with ``marginal'' costs to industry and a payback time to consumers of one year, he added.
But MBS President Jim J. Tozzi insisted the benefits of a rolling resistance grade would be ``nearly non-existent,'' whereas its costs would be substantial-about $100 million to the tire industry alone, mostly to retool tire molds.
Costs to consumers could be even greater, ``reflecting those implementation costs and additional costs to make lower-rolling-resistance tires that do not substantially compromise desirable performance features such as wet traction and handling,'' Mr. Tozzi said.
Mr. Tozzi urged the council to abandon the grade proposal. ``(It) may have seemed, initially, to be a simple idea that would benefit the American public,'' he said. ``However, analysis demonstrates that it is not cost-effective, is unwise policy, and is an inappropriate federal intervention in the marketplace.''
In earlier comments to another White House advisory committee, Mr. Tozzi said rolling resistance grades would work better as a tire maker's option; there should be no government mandate.
``If any individual manufacturer wants to test his tires for rolling resistance and publicize the results, fine,'' he said.