GREENVILLE, S.C.-With the introduction of what Michelin North America is calling ``the one tire for all your needs,'' the tire maker has jumped on the ``unlimited mileage warranty'' bandwagon, but gone its competitors one better. The new Michelin X One, for the luxury performance touring segment, boasts a UTQG rating of 620-which Greenville-based Michelin said is the highest of any tire in the world.
Several years ago the company led the industry's charge up the mileage mountain with the debut of a then-unheard-of 80,000-mile tire, the XH 4, an all-season radial some tire dealers feared would keep droves of customers out of showrooms and service shops.
Then this past February, Goodyear introduced its Infinitred replacement passenger tire featuring a ``lifetime'' warranty for as long as a consumer owns his car, and in April Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. followed suit with its new similarly warranted Turanza T radial.
Similar to its competitors, the X One offers a six-year treadlife and workmanship and materials limited warranty. In the event of a defect in workmanship or materials, it will be replaced with a comparable new Michelin for free during the first three years, and thereafter for a prorated charge based on months of service.
During an April 3 technical session for tire trade journalists followed by an opportunity to test the new tire on its Laurens, S.C., proving grounds, Michelin pitted the X One against the ``perceived leader'' in wet-handling, the Goodyear Aquatred II, as well as the Infinitred.
It also compared the X One to its own XH 4, claiming the former meets or surpasses the performance of the latter in all areas, including wear, noise and rolling resistance. In the all-season category, Michelin said the X One approaches its Alpin snow tire's performance.
Michael W. Cain, technical marketing manager, said in designing the X One, Michelin ``started out with a set of performance goals from our dealers and marketers.'' He cited use of the tire maker's Radial XSE Technology that optimized the X One's profile and mass and led to use of a new generation of silica compounds making extended wear possible.
That technology allowed the company to break the traditional compromise between rolling resistance, wet/dry traction and mileage, without sacrificing performance attributes, said Tom Chubb, brand manager for Michelin.
The T-speed rated X One's computer-designed tread pattern is dominated by wide, deep ``see-through'' circumferential grooves that wrap straight around the tire to maximize water removal, Michelin said.
Water evacuation is further boosted by hundreds of lateral grooves that scoop up water independent of the big circumferential grooves. It also claimed independent tests in wet braking have shown at 50 mph the X One stops up to 20 feet shorter than its best known competitor.
Although the X One's rolling resistance is not as low as the standards on some of Michelin's original equipment tires, it is very low for a replacement tire, Mr. Chubb said, and, in the noise category, an improvement over the XH 4 and XZ 4, Michelin's OE luxury car tire.
The line comes in 23 sizes, from P175/70R13 to P225/60R16-five with whitewalls and the remaining 18 with black sidewalls.
The new tire became available in tire dealerships April 3, augmented by what officials called the ``strongest national advertising support yet for a Michelin product in the company's history.''
It was launched March 14 during the NCAA basketball tournament and championship. Commercials during various Top-10 TV shows have followed, as has a print ad campaign in several major newspapers and magazines.
Mr. Chubb admitted the tire has a ``complex marketing message'' that must stress its multiple benefits to consumers. In order to help dealers convey that, Michelin is offering a ``quick-start'' training program consisting of a video and sales information. They may also call a toll-free ``programmed learning'' phone line to answer three ``test'' questions.
Under the auspices of the Skip Barber racing school, Michelin also will sponsor up to a dozen ``drive and excite'' special events for dealers in a number of regions nationwide.