WASHINGTON (Nov. 3, 2010)—The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration must ask probing, specific questions to consumer focus groups if it is to get meaningful feedback on the usefulness of proposed tire fuel efficiency labeling and consumer information, the Rubber Manufacturers Association has told NHTSA.
Nov. 2 was the deadline to submit comments to the agency in response to its Sept. 3 and Sept. 27 requests for comments on its market research plan to determine the usefulness of consumer information and labeling under the tire fuel efficiency rating rule issued in March. The two-phase NHTSA plan is to create two eight-member focus groups in three U.S. cities, followed by on-site interviews at various tire dealerships.
The RMA, the Tire Industry Association and Lanxess Corp. were the only commenters posted in the NHTSA docket as of Nov. 3.
The RMA recommended that focus groups should only see proposed information and labels as NHTSA actually intends them to appear; that they should be asked probing questions, such as how they defined safety and durability as it pertains to tires; and that conclusions on which labels to use should be based on differences observed between different groups, not within the same respondents.
“The ability for a label format to be understood is important,” the RMA said. “However, if the presentation of the information is unappealing or fails to capture consumers' attention, it may not be read.”
TIA said it was pleased NHTSA intended to conduct at least some of its research on-site at tire retail stores.
“TIA would like to emphasize our belief that there is a limited amount of time available to deliver the message (about tire fuel efficiency),” the association said. “TIA would also state that, in our members and their employees' role as providers of pertinent purchasing information to consumers, it could be viewed as negligent to emphasize one aspect of tire ratings over another (fuel efficiency over traction) as it pertains to safety.”
Lanxess urged NHTSA to finalize the consumer information program as quickly as possible, in anticipation of the European Union requirement to start labeling tires for fuel efficiency, wet grip and rolling noise starting in 2012.