This is a story about trying to turn a wish into a reality. Once upon a time there were two tire companies—we'll call them Goodyear and Michelin—that wanted to force one of those paradigm changes everyone talks about. They dreamt, "If only all cars had run-flats. Expensive run-flats. We could make a killing."
Goodyear and Michelin wanted their biggest customers, the powerful, stingy auto manufacturers, to embrace the value-added run-flat. But there were problems.
First off, the ultimate consumer, the auto and tire buyer, had to be convinced of the value of the run-flat. Goodyear and Michelin promoted their tires heavily, but sales were. not so good. Consumers experienced serious sticker shock when they looked at the run-flat system—tire, sensor and all.
The reaction of the auto makers played off that. With no great consumer demand to dump the spare, or even consumer acceptance that the run-flat makes the spare unnecessary, the run-flat alternative left the auto makers underwhelmed. Goodyear and Michelin (and the rest of their tire buddies, like Bridgestone, Pirelli and Continental), had to prove that higher cost + weight savings = consumer demand before the auto companies moved beyond apathy toward the product.
So far, no good. Goodyear's declaration it was betting the ranch on run-flats hasn't paid off. The creation of different, competing tire/wheel systems for run-flats by the big players just complicates the situation. What to do?
Combine resources, that's what Goodyear and Michelin (and Pirelli as a probable junior partner) decided. Makes some sense, too.
If it proves to be more than just talk, the joint working relationship should yield a run-flat system that will be the benchmark for the industry. Standardized run-flats could cut costs and convince consumers there's something to these tires, which might sway auto makers to adopt them.
It's still a hard road for the tire makers to follow. Taking it together holds more promise than trying it alone.