AKRON (Dec. 3, 2007) — Group Michelin's recent decision to stop developing its Pax run-flat tire/wheel system says less about that product's technology and more about the failure of run-flat tires in general to gain market acceptance.
Despite offering vehicle owners the ability to drive 50 to 125 miles on a flat tire and giving auto designers the opportunity to eliminate the spare, run-flats have failed to catch the imagination of either group.
Michelin admitted as much in its decision to end further research on Pax.
The extended mobility or run-flat segment has not developed as quickly as expected and accounts for less than 3 percent of the original equipment tire market, the company said. It also noted the lack of an industry standard for these tires.
Without broad auto maker backing, run-flat tires have remained a niche product.
But it's more than that.
Today's run-flat tires come with too many compromises. They're significantly more expensive than conventional tires, they're heavier, their ride is harsher and they don't last as long. In addition, their repair window is narrow. Unless a run-flat tire has been run only a short distance while deflated, it more than likely will need to be replaced.
So instead of fixing a flat, as you would with a conventional tire, you have to scrap the run-flat tire and buy a new one—an expensive proposition.
And, frankly, taking all that into account, the quality of conventional tires has made flats a not-so-regular occurrence for motorists.
Still, Michelin's decision regarding Pax should not dampen its and other tire makers' efforts to come up with a viable and marketable run-flat tire (meaning competitively priced and offering performance characteristics similar to conventional tires).
Ultimately, that's what consumers want—a tire that gets them home safely in the event of a flat at a price they find affordable.
AYES has a good idea
It would be nice if somehow independent tire dealers could work with Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES) in its efforts to address the projected shortages of automotive service technicians.
The non-profit organization formed by auto makers, car dealers and high schools arranged for 1,817 student internships at car dealerships last year to address projected technician shortages. Yet it failed to find internships for another 1,000 qualified students.
Those who've taken advantage of this talent pool have found them to be hard working and loyal.
The Tire Industry Association might want to consider contacting AYES for assistance in finding internships at tire dealerships for any students who can't be placed at car dealerships.
This type of cooperation would help all those involved and bring the industry closer to developing enough next-generation techs to meet projected demand.