AKRON (July 4, 2000)—Lighter vehicle weights and expectations of a car-like drive from new SUVs or light truck owners are two reasons cited for an increasing number of driver complaints about vibration.
"Who would have thought in the year 2000, with all of our technology, that the industry would be having more vibration and ride complaints than it did 25 years ago," said Bob Fogal Jr., president of International Marketing Inc.
Chambersburg, Pa.-based IMI said it has the solution to tire vibration problems—Equal Tire Performance. The company formally introduced a version of the product for passenger cars and light trucks to the trade press June 27 in Akron.
IMI has marketed Equal for use in truck, bus and aircraft tires for about 10 years.
Equal is a dry granular polymer product that is inserted into a tire through the valve stem. IMI said the new version of Equal for passenger and light truck tires has smaller granules, but it works on the same principle as that sold for larger-sized tires.
The vehicle´s speed, load, air pressure in the tires, temperature and road conditions all cause variation in the radius of the tires as they go down the road, Mr. Fogal said. Equal corrects this tire force variation (TFV) by the movement of the product within the tire to compensate for these factors, he said.
TFV is more noticeable now because vehicles and suspension systems weigh less than 25 years ago, Mr. Fogal said. However, Equal is meant to be a supplement to and not a replacement for proper dual plane balancing of the tire/wheel assembly, he said.
Bob Fogal Sr., IMI´s founder and CEO, said TFV causes the tire to "grow" as speeds increase—meaning portions of the tread are pulled further out from the center of the wheel. Equal´s granules are spread around the inside of the tire to equalize forces and make the tire roll more smoothly, he said.
Equal has been tested for more than a year by major auto manufacturers and consumers, he said. It was installed in the tires of a pilot group of drivers at about 30 locations around the country.
After two weeks of use, 87 percent of the customers said the product met or exceeded their expectations for an improved ride.
"That´s where we have gotten motivated to bring this product to the marketplace," the senior Mr. Fogal said.
He also said even if there is no noticeable improvement ride smoothness, Equal still provides better wheel balance and improves the tire´s life.
At a price of about $28 per vehicle, Mr. Fogal Jr. said dealers who install Equal can expect a gross profit of about $14. "Equal helps provide a completely new revenue stream added to every tire sold."
The product also will lead to improved customer satisfaction and fewer customer comebacks with vibration problems, he said. Dealers wishing to sell and install Equal also need to purchase the company´s applicator unit and in-line moisture filter for their air line.
Equal is packaged to accommodate 13- to 18-inch size tires with application packages for 19- and 20-inch sizes to be available by the end July.
Consumer marketing of Equal will begin in the latter part of the third quarter, Mr. Fogal Jr. said, and will include print and TV ads, direct mail, point-of-purchase displays and a dealer reward program.
The senior Mr. Fogal said Myers Tire Supply Co. of Akron will be the national distributor of Equal. John Puckett, IMI national sales manager, said IMI personnel have been visiting distributors and dealers nationwide to introduce the product. They expect to have covered most of the U.S. by August 1.
Mr. Fogal Sr. said he expects Equal to generate about $5 million in sales the first year. Also one of the big three tires makers has given IMI written assurance that use of Equal will not violate any of their tire warranties, he said.