SAN FRANCISCO—What a difference a year—and an audience—makes. The BFGoodrich Scorcher T/A—while still in testing—earned a Popular Mechanics ``Editor's Choice'' award last year for new product design and innovation. But the official rollout this month of the tire has proven a far hotter topic than Michelin North America had bargained for.
Officials in California are calling on Michelin to halt sales of the color-impregnated tires because they're concerned that rival gang members will latch onto Scorchers as the newest way to taunt each other. Red and blue are the colors claimed by some of the state's most notorious gangs, including the Crips and the Bloods.
San Francisco Supervisor Mabel Teng saw red when, watching a consumer segment on a TV news show July 25, a BFGoodrich video clip showed a car burning rubber and leaving patches of colored marks on the road.
``That was pretty much all anyone would need to see to realize how irresponsible the advertising is, and how irresponsible the product is,'' said Matthew Lonner, an aide to Ms. Teng. ``We're not against the cosmetic accessorizing of tires. But when it encourages gang activity, when it encourages unsafe driving and the defacement of public property, it becomes a problem."
``It's a `Joe Camel'-style of advertising that, by its nature, will appeal to those engaging in unacceptable or lawless activities,'' Mr. Lonner said. ``It's just mind-boggling that they would promote a product leaving skid marks. It would be paramount to a spray paint company showing how to spray paint the side of a building or the side of a freeway. And the video encourages unsafe driving as well.''
Ms. Teng's motion to urge BFGoodrich not to sell the Scorcher T/A could go before the 11-member San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Aug. 23. Mr. Lonner said law enforcement and public works representatives will testify.
Officials in nearby Gilroy and Napa also are fuming. ``If they sell those red and blue tires, someone is going to get shot,'' Thomas Springer, vice mayor of Gilroy, told the San Francisco Examiner.
The yellow tires were to have gone on sale Aug. 1, but at least one area retail outlet, America's Tire Co. in Campbell, Calif., reported Aug. 9 that it had yet to see any Scorchers.
``We absolutely do not condone reckless or illegal driving,'' responded a BFGoodrich spokeswoman in a press release.
The company is destroying all material that could be ``misinterpreted as encouraging reckless driving.''
Although BFGoodrich said it regrets the ``video has caused people to believe we would encourage this type of behavior,'' it will continue to sell the tires, which are geared toward 18- to 28-year-olds, many of whom drive import cars and light trucks.
``Our research showed it's nearly impossible to recreate'' the type of marks shown in the footage, she added.
In the wake of the controversy, the names the company has given the Scorcher colors seem a bit ironic: Raging Red, Blazing Blue and Screaming Yellow.