In addition to aesthetics, vehicle fitment, and price; long-lasting tread life and functionality are two of the most important factors that influence a customer’s decision during a tire purchase. In fact, these are the factors that dealers should emphasize so as to achieve customer satisfaction and promote safety.
The main question becomes, “How many miles can a customer get from a particular set of tires?”
According to the application engineer for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, U.S. and Canada Keith Willcome, trends in providing long tread life have been greatly influenced and led by customer preference and changes in vehicle demographics.
New products are coming about every other day to match the diversity seen in truck, CUV, and SUV fitments. Many manufacturers are also providing solutions for light truck tires that are focused on wear performance. Alongside this, they are offering treadwear warranties on all-terrain and highway patterns alike.
According to vice president of product planning and technical services Toyo Tire U.S.A Conrad Galamgam, most consumers in the U.S.A. are continually prioritizing long tread life as a performance characteristic. This has been greatly fueled by their shift from sedans to CUVs, and SUVs. Hybrid, EV, and PHEV options are also creating a larger demand for tires that can handle high-torque applications.
There are, of course, cases where customers do not prioritize long tread life. Such cases include where UHP summer tires are used in sports cars. Here, grip is of the essence. However, the product development manager at the Nexen Tire America Technology Center in Richfield, Ohio Aaron Nuemann thinks the vast majority of people want long-lasting tread life.
The Perfect Balance
Willcome adds that achieving long-lasting treads requires a technical balance between tire attributes as well as performance factors. To gain in one area means you will lose in another. However, technology has played a big role in making sure certain things are achievable. For example, 40,000 miles was considered long-lasting from a tire 40 years ago. Today, that number has shot to 70,000 miles plus.
Tire engineers incorporate several tools to balance gains in several areas of performance. Top-notch compounding skills produce tread compounds that are able to achieve lower rolling resistance, increased grip in snow, wet, and dry conditions, as well as increased wear resistance.
Technology plays a big role in ensuring that tires are tuned to achieve ride quality, traction, rolling resistance, wear life, and other important attributes. When it comes to treadwear and tire performance, Galamgam adds that compounding, structural design, contact patch, and tread design play an important role.
He further goes on to explain that tire engineering demands a clear understanding of vehicle fitments, driving habits, road conditions, and regional performance requirements. These help to define the ideal performance characteristics needed. These include rolling resistance, wet and dry handling, winter performance, wear and dry braking, treadwear, and off-road traction. Nano-level material design, research, and production have also played an important role in improving and maintaining performance characteristics.
Michelin technical communications director Tom Carter adds that long-lasting performance is as important as long-lasting tread. Many wet and snow performance tires tend to degrade with time even with adequate tread depth. This is because sipes, grooves, and other tread features are not always full depth. Treadwear is greatly enabled by the design of the tread pattern and proprietary compounding.
Advantages of Long-Lasting Tires
One of the most prevalent benefits that consumers will derive from long-lasting tires is excellent all-season performance throughout the tire’s life. This is of course, with the proper maintenance and tread design features such as multi-wave siping, sipe density, and void volume. In addition, consumers get extended on-road treadwear mileage.
Nexen Tire America’s Neumann says that these benefits come depending on how the consumer drives. Drivers that have a heavy foot will get less durability from their tires. The same case applies if the car has a lot of torque and power. He goes on to explain that tread life is more about the slip the tire experiences than the mileage it covers. Slip is when the tread shears against the road surface due to the steering angle and driving torque.
According to the product planning manager for Continental Tire Sam Dollyhigh, consumers also get to derive environmental considerations as a benefit from using tires with long-lasting tread life. They last longer, hence, have less impact on the environment. The consumer also gets to save money and cover more miles. It’s an added convenience if you don’t have to change your tires often.
The Right Recommendation
The ball doesn’t stop at long-lasting tread characteristics. To truly create a satisfaction-guaranteed scenario for consumers, dealers need to go beyond to meet their needs. This involves taking into consideration the application of the tire, the driver, and how he chooses to drive his vehicle.
Willcome gives an example of a driver that wishes to have a quiet and comfortable ride. For him, a touring tire could be the best fit. Another driver using the same type of vehicle may want a great driving experience, therefore opting for UHP tires with great handling. Both drivers would have long-lasting tires that meet their needs.
Another example is that of pickup truck drivers who have the choice of picking a max traction tire, all-terrain tire, or highway tire. Those that pick the highway tread tire will have the longest tread life. However, if they choose to pull a trailer out of mud, the tires may pose to be a disappointment when compared to all-terrain tires offered with off-road traction and long tire life.
Dollyhigh shares the same sentiments and adds that dealers ought to spend more time understanding consumer needs. This includes their driving style, priorities, and vehicle type. High-mileage tires are popular with consumers that desire comfort, durability, and quietness. Sportier and luxury performance enthusiasts are better matched with tires that can maintain good mileage while at the same time provide great handling and wet traction. The sportiest of them all get to enjoy the highest level of handling and wet traction provided by UHP tires.
Michelin’s Carter suggests that dealers can ask consumers how they intend to use their vehicle. This includes asking for details on what performance metrics they prioritize so as to match them with the best tire.
“You want to keep your customers happy, and I think the best way to do this is to listen to them, help them pick a tire that suits their needs, explain why in a non-patronizing way, and sell them the tire that’s best for them, not what has the best mark-up for the dealer,” explains Nexen’s Neumann.