SAN ANTONIO — Newly introduced legislation in California looks to elevate the environmental performance of replacement tires sold in the state, but the proposal, as it stands, has the potential to impact the North American tire industry significantly by setting standards that some say could be unrealistic.
In February, California legislators introduced Assembly Bill 844, which is intended to ensure the efficiency of California vehicles and empower consumers to make more informed decisions about their replacement tire purchases.
To help consumers understand the roles their tires play in extending range and bettering fuel economy, the bill proposes a five-star tire rating system and consumer educational program that targets points of sale and online resources.
At the same time, the proposed law looks to raise the bar for the tire industry by setting minimum fuel/range efficiency standards for replacement tires, and it does so with rolling resistance as the key indicator.
"At its heart, (AB 844) aims to raise the energy efficiency of replacement tires in California to be equal to original equipment tires," Sebastian Serrato, a representative for the California Energy Commission (CEC) told those attending ther recent Smithers Traction Summit in San Antonio.
"So this helps with the issue that often happens when consumers purchase replacement tires, they literally end up with tires that are significantly less efficient than (those) the vehicle came with when new."
For the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association and its member companies, the proposal is concerning, Tracey Norberg, USTMA senior vice president and general counsel, said in a presentation immediately following Serrato's. Among those concerns is the leveled expectations for OE and replacement tire attributes.
"That law focuses on trying to make replacement tires like OE tires, which for people who just care about fuel economy, maybe that sounds good," Norberg said, "but for people who recognize the advanced benefits of replacement tires, not so much."