DETROIT (Jan. 9, 2012) — Michelin North America Inc. is replacing its HydroEdge and Harmony replacement passenger tire lines with a new Defender line that will cut the number of SKUs dealers need to cover this key market segment.
The Michelin Defender will be available in 38 sizes ranging from 175/70R13 to 225/50R18, and it will be backed by a 90,000-mile tread wear warranty, Michelin disclosed today at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The tire will launch with 57 SKUs, enabling dealers to cover more than 93 percent of passenger tire fitments in the marketplace, instead of 117 SKUs combined with the HydroEdge and Harmony lines, according to Pete Selleck, chairman, CEO and president.
In a conference call with reporters, Mr. Selleck said the company is trying to simplify the SKU proliferation problem for tire dealers with the Defender, making it easier to stock the tire at a lower cost and in an efficient manner.
The tire comes with Michelin's IntelliSipe Technology, which the company said optimizes the number of sipes within the tire, providing additional grip for braking. Mr. Selleck called IntelliSipe “a major breakthrough” because it's a three-dimensional siping feature that allows both braking and longer tread life at the same time.
The tire also features MaxTouch Construction, which together with IntelliSipe, helps deliver longer wear life by providing tread block rigidity while optimizing the tire's contact with the road during acceleration, braking and cornering, according to a company press release.
Michelin said the Defender is targeted at consumers who are keeping their cars longer and racking up high mileage before purchasing another vehicle.
“The Defender is the best standard passenger car tire we at Michelin have ever made, delivering tremendous quality and value to our consumers,” Mr. Selleck said.
“We listened to the marketplace and realized American tire buyers are looking for a safe, fuel-efficient tire, with long tread life and excellent value for the money. The Defender tire satisfies these primary consumer needs and enhances the already strong offering of products in the Michelin portfolio.”
Mr. Selleck said Michelin is making several claims that he said were accurate “using the traditional Michelin conservative approach to quantifying advantages.” Those claims are:
- The Defender will stop 31 feet shorter than a leading competitor, which the company press release said is the Goodyear Assurance ComforTred Touring tire. That equates to approximately two car lengths, with the Defender maintaining the same wet-handling capabilities as the previous generation Michelin HydroEdge tire and offering 15-percent better snow traction. Michelin said its claims are based on internal wet braking tests vs. the ComforTred in size 185/65R16.
- The tire will last 21,000 miles longer than a leading competitor — the Continental ProContact ECO Plus+ tires. This claim is based on commissioned third-party wear test results vs. the ProContact ECO Plus+ in size 215/60R16, according to the press release.
- The Defender is a low-rolling-resistance tire with Michelin's Green X designation and a set of four tires can potentially save a consumer $250 in fuel costs over the tires' lifetime. The press release said this savings is based on a fuel price of $3.50 per gallon and upon fuel efficiency estimates from rolling resistance testing vs. the Yokohama Avid TRZ in size 215/60R16.
Mr. Selleck said the Defender is being produced in all of Michelin's North American plants but primarily in Greenville and Lexington, S.C.
On a side note, Mr. Selleck said in the conference call that he's noticed at this year's International Auto Show a strong interest by the auto makers in tires with low rolling resistance. He said that's not always a strong factor in selling tires in the replacement market, but the OEMs are starting to understand low rolling-resistance tires more and are becoming more willing to pay tire makers for improvements in rolling resistance.