WASHINGTON (Aug. 23, 2009) — The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) is asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to modify its proposed tire fuel-efficiency rating system to a category rating system from a numerial rating scale to make it more understandable.
“Since consumers shopping for replacement tires are limited in their tire selections by requirements of their existing vehicle,” the RMA wrote in comments to NHTSA, “it is important to design a rating system that maximizes the tire efficiency choices across the rating scale for each consumer. The appeal of a rating system will depend on whether a consumer has ‘good' choices appropriate for his vehicle across the rating scale.”
In June, NHTSA proposed a tire fuel-efficiency rating system that would rank tire fuel efficiency on a 0-100 point scale. The rank, which would also include wet traction capability and tread wear ratings, is to be printed on a paper label attached to every replacement passenger tire sold in the U.S.
The RMA contends NHTSA's proposed rating approach will not provide consumers with useful information about fuel efficiency of replacement tires suitable for their vehicles. Under the NHTSA proposal, a typical consumer shopping for a replacement tire for a specific vehicle would have a choice only along approximately a 20- to 30-point spread on the 100 point scale.
“The proposed rating scale gives consumers an illusory view of the tire efficiency choices available to them for their vehicle and does not assist consumers in purchasing fuel efficient tires for their vehicle,” RMA wrote.
“On the other hand, this rating approach encourages consumers to purchase smaller tires and could promote the purchase of tires with inadequate load-carrying capacity to safely carry the load of the vehicle. Although many tire dealers would discourage and in many cases would not sell a tire with a rated load capacity insufficient for the vehicle, NHTSA should not promote a system that could lead to this type of safety concern.”
The RMA is suggesting NHTSA should develop a system that promotes tire efficiency, regardless of vehicle class.
“Unfortunately, since the proposed system would not favorably rate any tires suitable for larger vehicles, it would send the message to owners of these vehicles that they have no fuel-efficient tire choices, so they should not base tire-purchasing decisions on this information,” the RMA wrote.
Instead the RMA is proposing the use of a five star system based on consumer studies it conducted.
RMA also expressed opposition to the propose tire rating system label as a means of providing point of sale information to consumers.
The RMA instead proposes that NHTSA mandate that tire retailers have the rating information available to consumers in the dealer showroom or waiting area. Options for doing this could include tire manufacturer brochures, tire manufacturer product catalogues, in-store online access to the NHTSA website, tire manufacturer websites or the tire retailer's website containing the rating information.
The RMA also told NHTSA it estimates the initial costs for manufacturer testing and reporting would range from $14.7 million to $53.2 million with annual costs ranging from $12.3 million to $34.8 million.
In addition, the initial costs for meeting the labeling requirements would range from $21.9 million to $30.6 million and annual costs thereafter ranging from $11.5 million to $16.8 million.