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Blog: Tire knowledge is king

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AKRON — By now you’ve probably noticed that Consumer Reports (CR) included three Chinese-brand tires in its latest test review of 20 SUV and light truck tires.

This was the first time the magazine has included Chinese tires in its performance rankings.

I think this decision by CR is quite telling.

While the magazine did not rate the tires highly, the fact that it included them at all sends a statement that Chinese tires have become a significant enough of a factor in the marketplace that they are worthy of being reviewed.

The Chinese tires tested — the Geostar GS716, distributed by Tireco Inc., the Sunny SN3606 produced by South China Tire & Rubber Co. and the Pegasus Advanta SUV, distributed by American Pacific Industries — were in the all-season category.

Of the tires reviewed, the Chinese-made products finished in the bottom three, with scores of 58 for the Geostar, 54 for the Sunny and 48 for the Pegasus. (Note: CR has since removed its rating on the Pegasus Advanta SUV after being notified by American Pacific Industries that, based on the DOT tire identification code, the model tested was not produced or distributed by an authorized vendor.)

CR rated the tires on 14 different criteria, with the most weight placed on braking, handling and hydroplaning. The magazine also looked at treadlife, rolling resistance, wet, dry and ice braking, ride, noise and snow traction.

Topping the list were two Michelins, the Latitude Tour and LTX M/S2, each with a score of 74, followed by third-place finisher, Goodyear’s Assurance CS TripleTred All-Season with a score of 70.

As expected, the higher rated tires also cost more, with the Latitude Tour priced at $168, the LTX M/S2 at $189 and the Goodyear Assurance TripleTred at $161. This compares with $114 for the Geostar, $89 for the Sunny and $95 for the Pegasus.

In a brief writeup on the Chinese tires, CR said all three had average or better handling and braking performance but fell short in one or more of the other categories — such as snow traction or treadlife. “You get what you pay for,” the magazine said.

A couple of thoughts: It wasn’t that long ago that Chinese tires were considered inferior. Today that’s no longer the case. The quality of Chinese tires overall has improved considerably and is likely to continue to get better.

This is similar to what occurred with Japanese automobiles in the 1970s or Korean cars in the 1990s. At one time, cars made in Japan were considered junk, but the manufacturers kept striving to improve their products year after year. Today, Japanese auto makers produce some of the highest quality automobiles in the world. A similar transition has occurred with Korean vehicle makers. Could the same thing happen with Chinese tires?

U.S. consumers already are buying a lot of these tires. One out every five replacement passenger tires sold in the U.S. in 2013 was made in China. With so many Chinese tires being sold, it’s imperative that tire dealers be able to explain to customers the differences between products and brands.

All tires may look round and black, but the technology in them definitely is not equal. Going forward, especially with the pending federal tire labeling law soon to take effect, tire dealers will need to understand and be able to “sell the differences” in tires they offer.

Yes, price always is a big purchase motivator. But with so much riding on your tires — as the Michelin tagline goes — providing the best tire for a vehicle at a fair price will become a more significant differentiator.

Tire knowledge will be king.

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Dave Zielasko is publisher and editor of Tire Business. He can be reached at dzielasko@crain.com.

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TB Reader Poll

Previous | Published March 18, 2019

Where can you expect to see the most growth in 2019?

Tire sales
45% (34 votes)
General automotive service
15% (11 votes)
Brakes, shocks and other undercar services
7% (5 votes)
Add-on business
15% (11 votes)
Anywhere we can get it.
19% (14 votes)
Total votes: 75
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