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Published on July 17, 2000

Run-flat prices must come down

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Opinion

AKRON (July 17, 2000)—Given an equal choice, most consumers would elect to fit run-flat tires on their vehicles rather than conventional radials. And why not? With run-flats, car owners don´t need to worry about being stranded along the side of the road with a flat tire.


But the key word here is equal. Today´s run-flats are not equal to conventional tires—not in price and not in performance.


It´s little wonder, then, that run-flat tires have not gained widespread acceptance among the buying public or with auto manufacturers.


Eliminating this inequality is the challenge Goodyear, Michelin and other tire makers face in trying to expand run-flat use.


Most run-flat tires, as they exist today, cost considerably more, weigh more and offer greater rolling resistance than conventional tires, which drives up fuel costs.


They also require use of a tire-pressure monitoring device—another added cost—and in some instances, a different type of rim.


Depending on the type of run-flat system in use, tire dealers also could face higher costs in having to buy new equipment to mount and demount such tires.


While run-flat tires do offer better safety and security than their conventional counterparts, these differences apparently are not great enough to justify their added cost.


The durability of today´s tires is high, and the threat of having a flat tire is not as formidable as it once was.


So what do tire makers have to do to make run-flats sell?


They must get the price down to a level comparable with today´s conventional tires and improve their performance.


The recent announcement that bitter rivals Michelin and Goodyear plan to work together in developing an industry standard for run-flats should go a long way toward speeding their acceptance.


These two industry behemoths wisely perceived that their individual run-flat programs were going nowhere.


Despite spending millions of dollars on research, development and advertising, neither has sold many run-flat tires.


Widespread acceptance of run-flats seems most likely to occur first in the original-equipment market, particularly if a new wheel design is needed.


To Goodyear´s credit, it has acknowledged that Michelin´s PAX system, which uses a new wheel design and a flexible internal support ring, is the best platform on which to base future research.


Now, auto makers and first-time buyers in the aftermarket won´t have to choose between Michelin´s PAX and Goodyear´s Extended Mobility Tire design, which uses a conventional rim in combination with stiffer tire sidewalls.


Still, the challenge is clear. Goodyear, Michelin and other tire makers need to develop run-flats that cost less and offer higher performance.


Until they do that, run-flat tires will continue to be a tough sell.

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