AKRON-They're self-sealing, but unfortunately for their manufacturers, some may not be self-selling.
Manufacturers are shying away from self-sealing tires, which came onto the scene in the '70s. Some still produce and move a few units, but they represent a mere dot on the tire-selling landscape. Goodyear, for one, doesn't produce a self-sealing tire at all.
``Our strategy has been the run-flat tire with a reinforced sidewall,'' a Goodyear spokesman said. ``As far as I can tell, we haven't ever marketed a full-fledged sealant tire, and there are not any immediate plans to introduce one.''
Ditto Michelin North America Inc., whose spokeswoman said that company doesn't offer a self-sealing product on its own Michelin-brand tires. However, within the tire maker's family of brands, Uniroyal does offer a self-sealing tire-the Tiger Paw featuring the company's ``NailGard'' technology. It has been on the market for three years.
While not revealing specific sales figures, a Michelin spokeswoman said ``our mix of NailGard can represent up to 20 percent of our total dealer volume.'' for the Uniroyal brand. She called the Tiger Paw very successful, saying its market appears to be growing.
On other tires, Michelin opted to go with other technologies that serve a similar purpose. The tire maker's ZP (zero pressure) tires use run-flat technology, and the company claims they're more resistant to sidewall impact damage. In addition, the company's PAX system eliminates the need for a spare tire, the spokeswoman said. PAX uses the forces of the vehicle's weight and tire design to lock the tire against the wheel in the event of a tire injury or blowout-eliminating any dependence on air pressure.
Nashville, Tenn.-based Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. offered a self-sealing product several years ago, according to a spokeswoman. More recently, BFS introduced the FT70c, which features the tire maker's self-sealing technology known as Sealix.
Though she declined to offer specific sales figures, the spokeswoman said the market for self-sealing tires ``has been softer than we initially thought.'' She added that BFS will watch the market and customer needs, then react accordingly from a production standpoint.
Continental Tire North America Inc. promotes its ``Gen-Seal'' technology to seal punctures, but only on a few tires, according to a company spokeswoman. She added that while the company currently sells tires with Gen-Seal in the replacement and original equipment markets, it will only be available as OE starting in 2002.
Products Conti offers with the technology are the General XP2000 and General GS60-both made for Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. vehicles.