LAS VEGAS Infinitred. The name says it all.
Goodyear has taken the tread-life battle to the ultimate level with the introduction of the first passenger tire to feature a life-time warranty-for as long as a customer owns his car.
Company officials unveiled the new all-season tire to a record 2,600 independent tire dealers, Goodyear employees and suppliers gathered for the firm's annual dealer conference in Las Vegas Feb. 4-8.
``We challenged our technical people to break the treadwear/traction barrier,'' said Eric Brown, general manager of Goodyear passenger tires. ``They have met the challenge. The Infinitred delivers superb treadlife and excellent wet traction, with even wear.''
Goodyear will offer the Infinitred solely through its company-owned stores and independent tire dealerships, including Penske Auto Centers, which operate more than 800 former Kmart Inc. auto centers. Mass merchandisers, such as Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Montgomery Ward & Co., as well as tire discounter Discount Tire Co. of Scottsdale, Ariz., will not stock the tire.
Under the tire's lifetime warranty, Goodyear will replace the Infinitred free of charge if it wears down to the treadwear indicators within three years. After that, regardless of time and mileage, the company will replace the tire at a 50-percent discount.
The warranty also gives a free tire for workmanship or material defects for the life of the tire. Mounting and balancing costs are included.
The treadlife warranty may be voided if the vehicle owner fails to maintain proper inflation pressure, vehicle alignment and tire rotation, Goodyear said. Tires must be rotated every 6,000 to 8,000 miles. Road hazards are not covered.
``The warranty difference is powerful,'' Mr. Brown told dealers. ``There's no comparison. It's going to translate into better business for you.''
Goodyear President and CEO Samir Gibara called the Infinitred a major technical breakthrough for Goodyear and the industry. ``It not only extends treadlife to new levels, but it is able to do that without compromising our leadership in wet traction,'' he said.
If the tire is well-received by consumers, he said it could well be developed into a family of tires.
In testing, the Infinitred approaches the wet traction performance of the second-generation Aquatred II-far better than the leading competitor, Mr. Brown said.
Goodyear market research shows the tire addresses consumers' top tire concerns of durability, safety and value.
``Our research also shows that Infinitred's lifetime warranty is more compelling to buyers than an 80,000- or 100,000-mile guarantee,'' said Steve True, market manager for Goodyear auto tires. ``Potential tire buyers said the lifetime warranty best conveys a sense of security and long life.''
Goodyear previewed the new tire to selected dealers in January at the company's San Angelo, Texas, test track. One of those in attendance was Marlo Reimer, owner of Superior Tire Inc. in Las Vegas, who called the new premium tire, which sells for about $100, ``something we've needed'' to compete with competitors' high-mileage tires.''
The pricing of the new tire also gives dealers an advantage, Mr. Reimer said. Prior to Infinitred, $80 was the highest price for a regular Goodyear passenger tire, he said. ``Now we can get a few more dollars out of something we haven't had in the Las Vegas market.''
John Turk is another independent Goodyear dealer who attended the San Angelo preview. The president of Conrad's Tire Service Inc. in Cleveland said he was favorably impressed with the Infinitred. In today's retail tire market, it's important to have products differentiated from competitors' offerings, he explained.
``So when you can find a product that's long-wearing, that's great,'' he said. ``When you add wet traction, that's even better. When you add the warranty situation, that's hot-and it will be hot for retail.''
Goodyear expects to improve its market share and financial position with this new long-mileage entry, but the overall industry impact of such tires will be minimal, Mr. Brown said.
``Since Infinitred is a premium-priced tire, it is not for everyone,'' he said. ``Some tire buyers are sensitive to price. We expect the replacement tire market to continue to grow as it has in the past, despite the long-mileage offerings now available.''
The Infinitred's tread compound contains a highly structured carbon black, which improves wet- and snow-traction, Mr. True said. It has deep, 12/32nds-inch tread elements arranged in a special geometry to minimize wear and reduce slippage on the road.
The tire is available in 11 sizes and carries a UTQG treadwear rating of 520 in 13-inch wheel diameters and 540 in 14-and 15-inch sizes.