BURTON-ON-TRENT, England—The European Union's aftermarket tire labeling regulations, in effect for a year, have thus far not had a significant impact on consumers' purchasing behavior, according to the findings of a survey of United Kingdom tire dealers and customers.
The survey, commissioned by synthetic rubber producer Lanxess A.G. and implemented by the U.K.'s National Tire Distributors Association (NTDA), found "missed opportunities" for both drivers and tire retailers, with customers losing out on the benefits of safer and more fuel-efficient tires and retailers missing the opportunity to sell higher-cost premium tires.
The survey was completed by a cross-section of NTDA members across the United Kingdom, the association said, including tire retailers Meritire and Kwik-Fit. Respondents were asked about customers' priorities when buying tires, whether they asked for tire label information, the value customers placed on the label information and on advice given by the tire dealer, and how EU tire labeling could be improved.
Of those responding, 93 percent of tire retailers said that customers never or only occasionally require information on the EU label and only 30 percent know that tires affect fuel consumption. Despite the EU tire labeling legislation, this apparently reveals a lack of knowledge both about the label and about the potential benefits of choosing higher-performance tires.
Tire price was demonstrated as being the biggest selling point, with 74 percent of survey respondents saying it was "the most important factor" to customers. Despite this, Lanxess said sales of budget tires have risen and sales of high-performance tires have fallen in the last year, implying that consumers are still largely unaware of the potential cost benefits of choosing high-performance tires.
It is claimed that fitting high-performance tires can lead to fuel savings amounting to hundreds of dollars for a family car averaging 20,000 miles per year.
"While it is still early days for the tire labeling and we can expect consumer knowledge to improve over time," NTDA Director Richard Edy said, "the (tire distribution) industry should unite to improve the uptake of high-performance tires by providing as much information to the consumer as possible—whether within the dealership or externally."
EU tire labeling legislation went into effect Nov. 1, 2012, to help consumers make more informed decisions when choosing tires, the NTDA said. The labeling categorizes tires on three different criteria: fuel efficiency (or 'rolling resistance'), wet grip and external noise.
A similar labeling system for "white goods," introduced in 1995, has made great improvements to the sales of more energy efficient products, the group said.