Is a tyre just round and black?
At the start of all tyre development, be it summer or winter, Bridgestone embraces the company motto of “Serving society with products of superior quality” and focuses on meeting consumer needs. Based on a Bridgestone customer segmentation study* it is clear that the prime concern of close to 50% of motorists is “safety and control in wet conditions”. Within this, “short stopping distance on a wet surface” is the most important need, followed by “staying in control in all conditions” and “short braking distance on icy and snowy roads”.
At the same time, reality shows that most consumers are cost-driven when they buy tyres, reluctant to consider premium quality tyres (even though they may be driving a premium car). Increasingly they buy low cost imported tyres, mainly Chinese (confirmed by ETRMA data**). Tyre imports to Europe from China almost doubled between 2007 and 2013, and represented 45% of all European tyre imports in 2013.
Reflecting that motorists have a low understanding of tyres and little affinity with them – seeing them as a commodity and distress purchase – most people fail to appreciate their complexity and believe that tyres are all the same: round and black! Unsurprisingly then, around 80% of motorists turn to the dealer (car or tyre dealer) for purchase advice.
Tyre maintenance also overlooked
There are two main issues with tyre maintenance: wear and inflation pressure.
- Regarding wear, 25 % of drivers checked in 2012 during Bridgestone tyre safety checks (28,000 vehicle checks by qualified personnel across Europe) were driving on tyres worn below the legal 1.6mm tread-depth limit – and yet still deciding to postpone changing their tyres! The dangers of driving on worn tyres (loss of grip in wet, risk of tyre blow out) are well documented. In the UK, this goes up to 57% of tyres that are changed after the legal limit!
- As for inflation pressure, in the same series of 28,000 tyre safety checks Bridgestone discovered that 78% of drivers were driving on underinflated tyres. This situation compromises the driver’s ability to brake and manoeuvre safely, as well as consuming more fuel and wearing out the tyres much faster. In Spain, the car failures related with the tyres as punctures, blowouts or incorrect pressure increased 14.4% in 2014.
These findings prove once again that – despite wanting safety – consumers do not have the behaviour to match their number one requirement!
Bridgestone education campaign
Given this contradiction between “needs” and “behaviour”, Bridgestone – as the world’s largest tyre and rubber company – decided it was necessary to inform and educate motorists in Europe about the importance of tyres and their proper maintenance – and in particular how premium tyres provide benefits in safety and performance that cannot be guaranteed by low cost imported products.
Bridgestone spreads the message in Europe in three ways:
- A pan-EU advertising campaign launched in October 2014, which emphasizes the important contribution of tyres to road safety as “the only vehicle safety system that actually touches the road”;
- A programme of free tyre safety checks carried out by tyre professionals across Europe in public places such as car parks and shopping centres;
- Specific media events such as this Premium Safety workshop event where journalists can experience first-hand the safety benefits of fitting premium tyres.
Important difference in wet safety
Findings from the wet workshops – especially wet braking – show that the differences in stopping distance between premium tyres and low cost imports are significant – at least 4 meters difference. That is more or less the average length of a car today! So in an emergency situation – such as sudden braking in heavy motorway traffic or a pedestrian crossing the road – it could be the difference between material damage / no damage or even more importantly, physical injury / no injury.
More significant than pure distance however, is the residual speed at which the vehicle fitted with low-cost tyres continues to travel. When the Bridgestone car comes to a stop, the other vehicle is still travelling at around 22km/h at minimum. More than enough to cause serious material damage and physical injury.
1. Physical injury
It is difficult to quantify in money terms but international statistics, such as the OTS (On the Spot) study by the UK Department for Transport 2010, show that as of 8km/h, impact with a pedestrian can start causing light to severe injury, and in rare cases even fatality. With an impact of 22km/h, in 40% of cases light to serious injuries occur, mainly to head and legs.
2. Material damage
In the event of a head-to-tail accident (vehicle hitting the one in front) the rear car can suffer serious material damage even at 18km/h:
- Bumper/grill dented
- Head light broken
- Engine bonnet crumpled
- At least 1 airbag activated
For the VW Golf of the type used in the workshops, an estimate for replacing the above would be around 4000€. And of course, the vehicle that was hit would almost certainly need a replacement rear bumper tail light and more.
So the bottom line is this: based on the Bridgestone tyres and low-cost imported tyres tested in these workshops, an initial price saving of around 120 euros for a set of tyres could become very expensive in terms of safety in the long run.
*2015: 6 markets, 6000 respondents