TROY, Mich. — As U.S. residents throttled back their driving last year during the various COVID-19 lockdowns, so too did their attention to regular vehicle maintenance, including tires, business research firm J.D. Power said recently.
"While less driving may have helped reduce tire wear and increased the time to replacement, many owners also put off much needed maintenance or tire replacement," Brent Gruber, senior director of automotive quality at J.D. Power, said.
"This is similar to a trend seen among electric vehicle owners in which lower maintenance needs are keeping people away from service facilities. This is a concern for tire manufacturers and retailers alike.
"Tire manufacturers can help boost sales and get people back to service facilities by implementing better visual wear indicators and increasing tire safety communications," he added.
J.D. Power disclosed its findings — which are similar to a trend analysis published recently by Hankook Tire America Corp.— in its 2021 U.S. Original Equipment Tire Customer Satisfaction Study.
"The events of the past year have forced many consumers to change their routines, from delaying medical care to reducing their regular vehicle maintenance," Mr. Gruber said.
"Just as it is important to stay on top of personal health during the pandemic, it is also important that vehicle owners keep up with necessary automotive care, including tires."
J.D. Power pointed to study findings that show miles driven fell 13% during the past year, with tire rotations and pressure checks dropping by similar rates. In addition, owners delayed replacing their original equipment tires, the research firm said, leading to a drop in replacement rates of as high as 23%.
Overall, vehicle owners' satisfaction with their OE tires continued at all-time highs, J.D. Power said. The annual study measures tire owner satisfaction in four key areas (in order of importance): tire wear; tire ride; tire traction/handling; and tire appearance.
From a brand perspective, J.D. Power said Michelin was rated highest in the four vehicle segments it tracks — luxury; passenger car; performance sport; and truck/utility.
- Luxury — Michelin rated highest with a satisfaction score of 782 (on a 1,000-point scale), followed by Pirelli with a score of 760. The segment average is 750.
- Passenger — With a score of 752, Michelin ranked ahead of Goodyear (739) and Kumho (736). The segment average is 721.
- Performance Sport — Michelin (789) finished ahead of Goodyear (761). The segment average is 731.
- Truck/Utility — Michelin (771) outscored Bridgestone (737) and Hankook (712). The segment average is 711.
The 2021 study is based on responses from 26,131 owners of 2018 and 2019 model-year vehicles and was conducted during October through December 2020.