NOTRE-DAME-DE-LA-MERCI, Quebec — When Group Michelin asked tire dealers and distributors what they wanted in the company's next winter tire, they said looks were everything.
The X-Ice Xi3, which debuted in 2012, was a very good tire — top ranked in its category with 4.5 out of 5 stars on TireRack.com — but they said it didn't look aggressive enough to sell in the showroom.
Though the focus group did say the new tire needed to maintain — and even improve upon — the performance of the X-Ice Xi3.
"Michelin listened to what they had to say and started with the look," Sabrina Garofalo, a marketing manager at Michelin North America (Canada) Inc., said. "Then they brought in all of the engineering to maximize the performance."
What Michelin designed in the X-Ice Snow is a tire that looks the part, performs well and should give buyers an extra season of use, the company said.
When Michelin started designing the X-Ice Snow, they conducted focus groups with tire distributors, retailers and end users to get feedback for how the company could build a more complete snow tire.
Better bite, especially in deep snow; less noise on the highway; improved grip on ice; a longer tread life; and a look that draws customers in were among the top requests.
Tire dealers said the tire needed to look more aggressive than its predecessor, the X-Ice Xi3. The reason, they said, was because the sales window for winter tires in North America is so short — around eight weeks — the tire needs to stand out if it's going to sell.