You have to give the ``Today Show'' producers credit for trying, when they ran a segment the other day on how to read a tire label.
Michelin should give them an advertising fee.
It started off OK. The idea was to show the average person how to read the label indicating the Uniform Tire Quality Grading ratings for the tire.
They assigned the segment to broadcaster Katie Couric: Very much with child, she symbolized the Average Mom, concerned about safety and ignorant about tires.
Leading her through the wiles of tread design, fuel economy and traction was none other than Jack Gillis of the Consumer Federation of America. Gillis, you may recall, is the author of the ``Car Book,'' the consumer-friendly tome that stated (in 1992) a motorist driving in the Pacific Coast area could expect 150,000 miles of treadlife if the car was equipped with Michelin XH4s.
That was his opinion, not Michelin's.
Couric wanted to know why buying a tire was ``so complicated.'' Gillis told her about how complex a tire is, and how many choices there are out there. He advised consumers to buy all-season tires.
Couric found the label ``tough to read.'' Gillis told her never to buy a tire with a ``C'' rating for traction, and agreed with her when she expressed surprise anyone would even make a tire like that.
Then he got to the highlight of the show.
``People used to have to make a choice between fuel efficiency and traction. Now there are new rubber compounds'' that eliminate that problem.
Roll the film. Two cars driving down a test track. One with ``high fuel-efficiency tires,'' the second with ``other'' tires. Guess which car goes farther and faster? Guess what tire company supplied the film?
Michelin, of course.
``It's very important to look for a tire with good fuel efficiency,'' Gillis said. ``The problem is we don't know how to look for that. That's why we're pushing the government to change the heat resistance grade to a fuel efficiency grade.''
Say, isn't that what Michelin's saying, too?
There just isn't enough time in a short TV segment to get everything in, so I guess Gillis didn't have a chance to mention nearly the entire tire industry is lined up against Michelin on this subject; or that other companies have ``fuel-efficient tires,'' too. They might even have films that show their tires beating Michelins.
I did notice one thing. Reflected off the wall behind Couric and Gillis, you could see the camera crew and passersby. All men, they seem to be intently watching the action-thus nullifying my belief that the only thing most tire buyers really care about is price.
Or maybe they were looking at Couric.
Noga is the editor of Rubber & Plastics News.