PHOENIX—The tire industry must rededicate itself to quality and technical excellence in order to regain consumer confidence, Group Michelin Chairman Edouard Michelin said recently.
"This is a humble task, an everyday task," Mr. Michelin said at the Michelin Americas Small Tires 2001 national sales and tire dealer meeting in Phoenix. "Michelin always has had a strong commitment to manufacturing, ecology and quality....We feel maybe this work can be better recognized."
The Firestone recall is a "wake-up call for industry," according to Mr. Michelin. "This message, delivered in a brutal way, is a call for responsibility about what the industry, including regulators, can do in order to go futher in terms of safety."
For Michelin, "this is a tremendous opportunity for our dealers to contribute to further the value that our engineers and production teams are putting into the product," he said.
"Consumers need to be helped," he said, pointing out that the tire gauge has existed for more than a hundred years, but very few car owners own one, let alone use one regularly. Proper tire care will require a change in behavior, and dealers will play a critical role in this education process.
As for the company, Mr. Michelin said he felt it is well positioned to grow profitably in the coming years based on its "distinctive strengths."
Two of Mr. Michelin's pet projects are the PAX run-flat tire/wheel system, and the low rolling resistance green tire program.
Regarding PAX, Mr. Michelin said the new system will appear later this year on a 2002 model-year European vehicle and is scheduled for fitment on the 2002/2003 Cadillac Evoq-based roadster.
Additionally, the company has been approached by Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. about participating in the research alliance Michelin and Goodyear established last year, he said, but emphasized nothing is concrete yet.
Regarding green tires, Mr. Michelin said he feels this development allows Michelin and its dealers to contribute to society on a day-to-day basis, helping to reduce pollution and energy consumption.
"Unfortunately," Mr. Michelin said, "consumer interest is not high enough to merit an adequate return on low rolling resistance technology."
He said he hopes the "Challenge Bibendum" fuel-economy competition scheduled for later this year in the U.S. will draw attention to the subject.