• Shoppers don't like run-flats for cost and wear
  • Low rolling resistance tires also receive bad marks
  • Michelin scores highest among tire makers

A new study shows that many drivers don't like two new types of tires offered by several automakers. According to the new JD Power Tire Customer Satisfaction Study, many drivers are unhappy with run-flat tires and fuel-saving low rolling resistance tires.

Run-flats earned the most scorn from car owners. As suggested by their name, run-flats benefit drivers by resisting punctures. Most run-flats can stay inflated for 100 miles or more after a puncture, giving drivers time to visit a repair facility. They also reduce vehicle weight and improve gas mileage, since cars with run-flats don't need a spare tire. But drivers don't like run-flat tires since they tend to wear more quickly than normal tires. And when it comes time for replacement, they can often be more expensive.

Automakers have noticed the backlash against run-flats. While Honda once used the tires on several new models, the brand no longer offers them. The decision came after a class-action lawsuit that alleged unreasonable tread wear and high replacement costs. BMW still offers run-flats on most models, including the popular 3- and 5-Series. And General Motors also uses the tires on some upscale models, such as the Cadillac ATS and CTS, as well as on the Chevrolet Corvette sports car. But many other brands have shied away from the tires.

The JD Power study also found a negative reaction to most low rolling resistance tires. These tires use a new technology that reduces the effort required to roll. As a result, low rolling resistance tires also boost gas mileage. But most shoppers don't understand the benefit.

According to JD Power, the main problem is that shoppers believe low rolling resistance tires compromise traction and durability. In reality, the traction loss and shorter lifespan of these tires is likely minimal. But shoppers seem to think choosing a low rolling resistance tire means putting gas mileage ahead of safety.

"Consumers don't fully understand the benefit of low rolling resistance tires," said Brent Gruber, director of JD Power's automotive division. "They believe they are forfeiting important aspects of tire performance by opting for low rolling resistance tires, yet don't know how much improvement in fuel efficiency they should expect in return."

JD Power says that problem could be solved by more education about the tires. Increased marketing, for example, may help shoppers understand the benefits of low rolling resistance tires. That's important, since many car brands are trying hard to boost gas mileage -- and the tires can increase fuel economy between one and four percent. That's why they're often used on economy cars like the Dodge Dart Aero and Chevrolet Cruze Eco.

The JD Power Tire Customer Satisfaction Study also showed drivers favor Michelin tires. In both luxury and mainstream segments, Michelin tires scored higher than rivals from Pirelli, Goodyear, Firestone and other brands.

What it means to you: Shoppers considering run-flats or low rolling resistance tires should consider the pros and cons before deciding to buy a set.

author photo

Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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