AGOURA HILLS, Calif.-Michelin brand tires led the pack in customer satisfaction among replacement tire buyers, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2001 Replacement Tire and Retailer Customer Satisfaction Study.
This was Michelin's seventh straight victory in the light truck category, and its third straight in passenger vehicles, according to Power.
Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc., the Prineville, Ore.-based tire retailing giant with stores mostly in the Pacific Northwest, rated highest among tire retailers in the annual consumer satisfaction study.
Meanwhile, tires also were uppermost on the minds of consumers in J.D. Power's second annual Automotive Emerging Technologies Study. In that report, seven out of eight consumers said run-flat tires were No. 1 among the features they wanted on their next vehicle, according to the Agoura Hills-based marketing information services firm.
Run-flat tires squeaked past side-window security glass on consumers' wish lists, with 87 percent naming the tires as their most desired option, opposed to 86 percent choosing the glass.
In the passenger vehicle tire category, the Toyo brand was second to Michelin, followed by Pirelli and Uniroyal in a tie, Cooper and Goodyear. Tires performing at or below the industry average, according to the study, were BFGoodrich, Bridgestone, Douglas, Dunlop, Firestone, General, Kelly and Sears, in alphabetical order.
Light truck owners ranked BFGoodrich second after Michelin, with Goodyear and Cooper in a tie for third. Ranking at or below the industry average alphabetically were Firestone, General and Uniroyal.
In retailer satisfaction, Les Schwab was followed by Arizona's Discount Tire Co., TBC Corp.'s Big O Tires Inc. unit and Goodyear Auto Centers. Ranking at or below the industry average-again alphabetically-were Firestone Car Care, Sears, Roebuck and Co.'s NTB chain, Pep Boys, Price Club/Costco, Sam's Club, Sears Auto Centers and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. outlets.
Michelin had strong performance in both the passenger and light truck categories in virtually all the customer-driven measures in Power's Replacement Tire Satisfaction Index, according to the firm's Aug. 7 press release. These items include situational performance, such as fast start traction and handling responsiveness; long-term performance, such as reliability and wearability; design and product quality.
``Michelin maintains its market-leading replacement tire satisifaction position by best meeting the needs and expectations of its customers,'' said Jeff Zupancic, director of the tire practice at J.D. Power, in the firm's press release.
Among tire retailers, one-half of Les Schwab's customers gave the company a 10 on a one-to-10 scale on each of 15 measures Power includes in the study, according to the release. Normally, only one-third of a tire dealer's customers rate their tire retailer that highly.
``Les Schwab's ability to consistently deliver on the personnel and service factors-the largest contributing customer-driven factors to retailer satisfaction-fuels their leading performance and their ability to retain customers,'' Mr. Zupancic said.
The two first-place awards Michelin received from Power this year make 28 total for the tire maker, or 78 percent of the 36 annual awards Power has handed out to date, Michelin said in an Aug. 7 press release.
``Michelin's continued dominance of prestigious awards such as ones from J.D. Power and Associates are an excellent by-product of our commitment to building the best tires in the world,'' said Michelin Brand Manager David Jones in the release.
G. Phil Wick, president of Les Schwab Tire Centers, could not be reached for comment.
J.D. Power based this year's consumer satisfaction study on the responses of more than 9,500 vehicle owners in the U.S., according to the company. The Automotive Emerging Technologies Study, designed to profile customers' wants and concerns regarding new trends in vehicle equipment, was based on responses from nearly 13,000 customers.
The report ``shows that consumers want safety-related features more than sophisticated entertainment systems or other convenience features in their new vehicles,'' Power said in an Aug. 2 press release.
But run-flat tires are not the panacea some motorists suppose, according to a spokesman from the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
Motorists' desire for run-flat tires ``may reflect the fact that there's been a lot of attention paid to tires in the last year,'' the spokesman said. ``But run-flat tires still require proper care and inflation, just like any other tires.''
A spokeswoman for Michelin North America Inc. said she wasn't surprised that consumers identified run-flat tires as a top priority.
``That is a consumer need that Michelin identified many years ago,'' she said. ``Michelin North America, to my knowledge, is the only tire maker with an extended mobility option in each of its major brands.''