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Ta l k i n g Ty r e s

In the meantime, people are counting their rands and cents a lot more

standing in the road at the predicted point. Do the same exercise with a cheap

carefully, and purchasing decisions are being considered and reconsidered

tyre in place of a premium tyre, and the scenario becomes even more tragic.

several times over before any money is spent on essential items, never mind luxuries.

Budget tyres are built to price. They benefit from far less research, development and testing than a premium tyre, and forego all the fancy materials that give the

The impact on the motoring industry is clear, with new vehicle sales for

more expensive the tyres huge advantage in cornering grip, emergency braking

2016 expected to fall by 12% compared to last year. The upside is that the

and outright traction – in one word: safety!

buying pattern has shifted towards used vehicles, with the likes of WesBank indicating a 10% increase in used vehicle finance applications.

In most cases, the premium tyre will last longer too, as it employs the latest technologies and tread compounds that improve tyre wear and durability.

For the tyre industry, the times are equally challenging. Manufacturers,

Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, and I know of a particular set of

importers and dealers across the country will no doubt vouch for the fact the

4x4 tyres that managed more than 160 000 km, and still had much more to

buy-down trend towards smaller, cheaper vehicles is effectively mirrored in

offer – but the rock-hard compound made them truly scary to drive on, in both

the tyre segment too.

wet and dry conditions.

For many motorists, replacing premium tyres with cheaper alternatives is a

Ultimately, buying cheap is likely cost more in the long run, whether it’s in terms

matter of necessity (real or perceived) due to their wallets being bled dry as

of the replacement cycle of the rubber, or an expensive, possibly even life-

the cost of living continues rising. This trend isn’t limited to the budget market

threatening, collision that could have been prevented.

either, as any car park inspection reveals. Even affluent motorists driving expensive cars are feeling the pinch, and are opting for second or third-tier

In these heavily constrained times, there needs to be an informed shift in

products in place of more expensive original equipment rubber.

mindset – and that has to come with a multi-faceted awareness campaign for the industry and motorists in general in order to change perceptions and habits.

Or could it be attributed to the all-pervasive ‘grudge purchase’ that has afflicted the tyre industry for as long as we can remember? Maybe it’s the

Crucially, however, it will be the primary point of interaction between customers

simple lack of understanding of the critical role that tyres play in overall

and retailers that will have the greatest impact.

driving safety, and the perception that all tyres are relatively equal. Successful tyre retailers and fitment centre staff will be those that proactively In reality, it’s a combination of all three. Firstly, disposable incomes are tighter

advise customers not to purchase on price alone, but rather convince them to

than ever, making it an easy choice between an expensive tyre and a more

make safety a primary consideration, followed by durability and the total cost

affordable option. Secondly, and inextricably linked to this, very few people

over the entire life of the tyre.

plan and budget for replacement tyres, which means when the hit comes, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.

Most tyre manufacturers have access to independent tyre tests from around the world, and these offer detailed insight into the performance virtues of

Lastly, people genuinely do not comprehend how important tyres are.

competitor tyres across various vehicle segments. Recently cheap tyres have

Through years of advanced driver training, it’s always amazed me how little

added to the tests too, and the results are simply shocking. Armed with this

drivers of all ages and levels of experience know about tyres. Most people

information, the job of selling a quality product versus something cheap, nasty

remember that the legal tread depth limit is 1 mm, but few really know

and potentially deadly, becomes a whole lot easier.

why this is the case, or what impact it has on handling, braking and grip – particularly in the wet.

Additionally, manufacturers and retailers that offer some sort of embedded tyre insurance (preferably standard or at a nominal fee) will earn even greater

Ask drivers to guess stopping distances from speeds such as 60 and 120

support and loyalty by adding further value for money and peace of mind to

km/h, and 99% of the time they would all have been wiped out if they were

the ownership experience.

Colin Mileman is a freelance motoring journalist, photographer and advanced driving specialist with over 17 years of experience in this field. As a former editor of Topcar and Topbike magazines, he’s as enthusiastic about cars and bikes as they come, and has extensive knowledge of all motoring-related matters, including the topic of tyres, having run the annual and highly regarded Topcar tyre tests for several years.

SA Treads June 2016  
SA Treads June 2016  

SA Treads quarterly magazine for the tyre industry in South Africa