Tenneco Automotive has launched a major consumer safety campaign it hopes will attract tens of thousands of vehicle owners nationwide to independent auto repair businesses over the next several months.
Dubbed the Monroe Safety Triangle, the effort introduced Feb. 18 urges millions of vehicle owners to request comprehensive chassis inspections. The campaign, according to Lake Forest-based Tenneco, maker and marketer of Monroe shocks and struts, will focus consumer attention on the interconnected systems and components that affect a vehicle's steering, stopping and stability-tires, brakes, shock absorbers, struts and chassis parts.
``While most consumers understand the relationship between tire traction and a vehicle's steering, stopping and stability, they might not recognize that traction is strongly influenced by the condition of the shocks and struts,'' said Mark Christiaanse, director-ride control for the Tenneco Automotive North American Aftermarket business. ``Driving safety can be severely degraded if even one shock absorber or strut is in need of replacement.''
Studies indicate that half of all passenger vehicles on the road have worn shocks or struts, Tenneco said. Extensive testing on a wide range of popular passenger cars, vans, light trucks and sport-utility vehicles has demonstrated that those with at least one worn shock absorber require an average of 10 feet of additional stopping distance (from 60 to 0 mph) over a bumpy surface when compared with the same vehicles equipped with four shocks in good condition.
Moreover, the company continued, handling tests show that vehicles with four properly operating shock absorbers provided better steering and stability performance than those equipped with a single worn shock. It defined handling performance as the ability to quickly and safely steer around an obstacle in the road.
The company said it worked in conjunction with a third-party research firm certified by the U.S. Auto Club to test safety performance on a variety of popular passenger vehicles.
``Ten feet of braking distance is nearly the entire length of a passenger car-that's a margin of safety consumers can't afford to give up by ignoring the condition of their vehicles' shocks and struts,'' Mr. Christiaanse said. ``The Safety Triangle campaign will take this important message to millions of consumers over the course of 2002; this, in turn, will bring new service opportunities and customer relationships to leading repair shops that rely on Monroe products.''
The program will involve the more than 10,000 vehicle repair businesses enrolled in Tenneco Automotive's Expert Plus program. It will include what the company called an unprecedented media campaign involving television, radio and print advertising, as well as direct mail messages, a consumer Web site and point-of-sale materials.
Also included is a special promotional program, running through May 15, that provides service comeback checks of $25 to $75 to consumers who restore the integrity of their vehicles' Safety Triangle by replacing worn shocks and/or struts with four Monroe Sensa-Trac(r) or Reflex(tm) shocks, Tenneco said.
``Just one worn shock or strut can seriously affect driving safety,'' said David Gabriel, senior vice president and general manager of Tenneco Automotive's North American Aftermarket business. ``We're backing this message with a nationwide promotion that rewards consumers who restore their vehicles' Safety Triangle with the world's most advanced replacement units''-namely, Tenneco's products.
Tenneco said that shops participating in the Safety Triangle campaign can earn ``Expert Plus'' bonus points for every qualifying Safety Triangle inspection completed during the promotion.
In a prepared statement, Mr. Gabriel said the company's aim is ``to close the information gap that exists with respect to the role of shocks and struts on today's vehicles. It's clear that consumers don't fully understand how important these components are to the steering, stopping and stability of their vehicles, especially in emergency situations.''
The Safety Triangle concept, he added, matches the three interrelated systems that provide safe vehicle handling-the tires, brakes and suspension components-and the three primary vehicle-handling characteristics associated with driving safety: steering, stopping and stability.
The image of a triangle reflects the interdependence of these systems, he said. A braking system, for example, ``is only as effective as the vehicle's tires and shocks or struts. If the tires don't have adequate tread, the vehicle won't have the traction necessary to perform a precise stop. And if the shocks or struts aren't fully functional, there's a good chance the tires won't be firmly planted on the road surface, again impacting stopping performance....''
It's important for vehicle owners to understand, Mr. Gabriel continued, that, like tires and brake pads, these components will wear out.
If the company can effectively communicate its consumer message, Mr. Gabriel predicted that ``millions of additional vehicles will be brought into repair garages for undercar inspections each year.''
Tenneco has worked closely with more than 10,000 qualified service businesses- members of its Automotive's Expert Plus program-to communicate the steps and components involved in a Safety Triangle inspection, he said. The program is based on the Uniform Inspection Guidelines established by the Motorist Assurance Program (MAP), ``an industry coalition dedicated to strengthening consumer satisfaction,'' Mr. Gabriel added.
Vehicle owners can ensure complete Safety Triangle-based inspections by taking their vehicle to a service provider participating in the program, he explained. Or they can go online to the company's monroe.com Web site and print a Safety Triangle inspection form for use by the service provider of their choice. They also can use the site to locate participating service shops.
Tenneco Automotive is a $3.5 billion manufacturing company with 23,000 employees worldwide. Its ride control and exhaust systems and products are sold under the Monroe and Walker global brand names. Among products marketed by Tenneco are Sensa-Trac and Reflex shocks and struts, Rancho shock absorbers, Walker Quiet-Flow mufflers and DynoMax performance exhaust products, and Monroe Clevite vibration control components.