DETROITMichelin North America Inc. is consolidating several passenger and light truck tire lines under two family names, Premier and Defender, respectively, to reduce confusion in the marketplace for both dealers and consumers.
Coinciding with this effort, Greenville, S.C.-based Michelin is launching two tires in these lines, Premier LTX for CUVs, SUVs and light trucks and Defender LTX M/S for light trucks and SUVs.
The Premier LTX eventually will replace the Latitude Tour T and the Latitude Tour HP, said Stephen Peters, brand category manager, light truck tire division, for Michelin, who was interviewed earlier this year in Detroit during the 50th anniversary celebration of the giant Uniroyal Tire icon alongside 1-94 in Allen Park, Mich.
The Premier LTX also will become a go-to line for the tire maker at OE.
As for the Defender LTX M/S, it will replace the AS, LTX M/S2 and LTX M/S, Mr. Peters said. The tire is the second product in the Defender family, the first being the 90,000-mile Defender passenger radial launched in early 2012 as a replacement for the firm's HydroEdge and Harmony lines.
Really what we are doing with the Premier family and the Defender family is we want to have something that directly appeals to the safety need and that also has something still that goes directly to the treadlife need, he said.
Both attributessafety and treadlifewere identified as primary concerns among consumers in panels and research studies conducted by Michelin.
The tire maker launched the Premier LTX in June in 24 sizes and will add another 10 sizes by year-end. In all, the line will consist of 47 sizes, with the remaining SKUs available in April 2016.
Because Premier spans almost the entire passenger and light truck market from winter products to ultra-high performance, the line will cover half of the market, Mr. Peters said, meaning virtually one out of every two cars out there right now has the option for Premier.
The tire will be offered in 12 luxury, 19 mid-size CUV and 16 full-size SUV sizes in H- and V- speed ratings.
To help develop continuity within the two tire families, Mr. Peters said tires in the lines will look the same, regardless of vehicle fitment. Tread designs will look very, very similar, he said.
For example, there might be a slight difference in the shoulder area of a Premier LTX going on a Toyota Corolla vs. a Toyota Highlander or Toyota Sequoia, he said, but by and large to the untrained eye it looks very similar, and that's intentional.
All of the Premier LTX products will have the same 60,000-mile warranty and the same relative tread depth, so that dealers only need to learn one thing and learn it well, and that it applies across the entire family, Mr. Peters said.
With Premier we want to make it family focused, again because there's not a different story at the retail counter, Mr. Peters said. We want folks to know the primary talking points that cross Premier and not have the dealer say, 'Which Premier do you want?' because they are the same.
In launching the Defender LTX M/S, Michelin is focusing first and foremost on the pillars of the Defender familytreadlife, all-season confidence and fuel efficiency.
The tire essentially is an evolution of the Michelin LTX M/S2 but designed with an advanced tread compound called Evertread that holds up better under tougher conditions allowing for extended treadlife. Michelin has been able to achieve this better treadlife without sacrificing any of the other performance characteristics of the M/S2, Mr. Peters said.
I think that's a very important message for our dealers and consumers, he explained, because if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Michelin is offering the Defender LTX M/S with two treadwear warranties to cover the range of power, torque and usage of today's trucks. Between 2009 and 2011 the average torque of three-quarter-ton trucks increased by 23 percent, with some heavy-duty trucks now pushing 865 foot-pounds of torque, Mr. Peters said.
For Euro-metric sizes (Michelin is moving away from P-metric nomenclature) targeted at half-ton pickups like the Ford F150 and SUVs, the tire will get a 70,000-mile treadwear warranty.
For larger, three-quarter ton pickups with higher torque such as the Ford F250 and F350, the warranty will be 50,000 miles for LT metric sizes. This is a reduction from 70,000 miles for the LTX M/S2, as treadwear testing is still under way.
Ultimately we do expect a longer treadlife in the Defender LTX...10-ply sizes, LT-metric than we had in the LTX M/S2, but the warranty is coming down, Mr. Peters said.
Both products have improved chip- and tear-resistance and carry a Uniform Tire Quality Grading (UTQG) rating of 800, up from 720 on the M/S2. Michelin will begin introducing the first 45 sizes of the Defender LTX M/S Aug. 1, with the remaining 26 sizes becoming available in June 2016.
The tire will be available in 15- to 22-inch rim diameters for CUVs, SUVs and half-ton pickups, and up to 35-inch overall tire diameters for three-quarter ton and plus-size fitments. The metric sizes will be offered in T and H speed ratings.
Michelin is making the majority of the Defender LTX M/S tires at its plants in Columbia and Greenville, S.C., as well as some at its Ardmore, Okla., and Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, factories.
The company has no plans to make the Defender LTX M/S a focus OE tire. Retail pricing will start at $130, Michelin said.