WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.—Customers with run-flat tires are less satisfied overall and replace tires more frequently in the first two years of ownership than do drivers with non-run-flat tires.
That's the gist of the just-released J.D. Power and Associates 2015 U.S. Original Equipment Tire Customer Satisfaction Study, which was based on responses from more than 29,000 original owners of 2013 or 2014 model-year vehicles.
The company said the study, conducted in November and December 2014, measured tire owner satisfaction in four vehicle segments: luxury, passenger car, performance sport and truck/utility. J.D. Power said satisfaction is examined in four factors: tire wear; tire ride; tire appearance; and tire traction/handling. Rankings are based on owner experiences with their tires after two years of vehicle ownership.
The survey found that overall satisfaction among owners of run-flat tires lags that of owners of non-run-flat tires across the luxury, passenger car and performance sport segments. That's a pattern, according to Power, consistent with previous iterations of the study.
The difference is most pronounced in the performance sport segment, where satisfaction with non-run-flat tires averages 685 points on a 1,000-point scale and satisfaction with run-flat tires averages 612. In the luxury segment, satisfaction with run-flat tires is 24 points lower than with non-run-flat tires (688 vs. 712, respectively), the Westlake Village-based market research firm said.
In all three of the rank-eligible segments, the largest gaps in satisfaction are in tire ride and tire wear.
“The use of run-flat tires is likely to increase as auto makers continue to view them as a viable option for improving fuel efficiency by eliminating the need for a spare tire, thereby reducing the weight,” said Brent Gruber, director of J.D. Power's global automotive division. “It's vital that auto and tire manufacturers address the ride and wear issues, which are still not meeting customer expectations.
“Customers expect that run-flat tires won't compromise tread life or the ability to provide a quiet and comfortable ride.”
Owners with run-flat tires also replace tires more frequently in the first two years of ownership than do non-run-flat customers, the survey found. While the replacement rate for run-flat tires owners is slightly higher in the first year of ownership (10 percent vs. 7 percent, respectively), the discrepancy becomes more pronounced in the second year of ownership, when 27 percent of run-flat tire owners replaced at least one tire, compared with 16 percent of non-run-flat tire owners.
“While tire manufacturers have made improvements in addressing dealers' reluctance to repair run-flat tires in the same way they would non-run-flat tires, customers with run-flat tires are still replacing them at a much higher rate,” Gruber said. “Manufacturers need to continue making progress in this area in order to increase satisfaction and loyalty among their run-flat tire customers.”
For a segment award to be presented, J.D. Power said there must be at least four suppliers with sufficient sample within an award segment. No truck/utility award was presented due to insufficient market representation among rankable suppliers in the segment.
Here are some key findings of the Power survey:
• Tire brand image influences customer satisfaction with the product. “Manufacturers that convey an image of product value and environmental responsibility positively influence overall customer satisfaction,” Power said. “However, a customer's image of the brand can erode over time if the product ultimately fails to meet their performance expectations. Projecting the right image for the brand is crucial, as 51 percent of customers who intend to purchase new tires cite brand reputation as a criterion for purchase, the highest among all purchase criteria.”
• For owners who have replaced one or more of their original equipment tires within the last 18 months, the most commonly cited criterion when selecting their new tires is that they match the other tires already on the vehicle. This is true for both purchase (32 percent) and lease (48 percent) customers. The second most frequently cited criterion is a recommendation from a sales or service person, cited by 11 percent of customers. Past experience with a tire brand and the advice from sales and service personnel are also very influential considerations when purchasing tires, Power said.
• Among generational groups, “Gen Y” customers—persons born during the 1980s and early 1990s—rely more heavily on their family and friends as a source of information for which replacement tire brand to purchase than do the older generations.
The Michelin brand ranked highest in two of the study's three rank-eligible segments: luxury (745) and passenger car (714). Pirelli ranked highest in the performance sport segment (693).
Pirelli ranked second in the luxury segment (710), while Goodyear ranked second in the passenger car segment (669). According to the findings, in the performance sport segment, Michelin ranked second (692) and Goodyear third (691).
Following Goodyear in the luxury segment were Dunlop (676); Continental (667); and Bridgestone (663).
In the passenger car segment—following Michelin and Goodyear—were Bridgestone (639); Pirelli (631); Continental (630); Yokohama (626); Toyo (622); Firestone (621); Dunlop (611); Hankook (607); and Kumho (594).
Power said that the BFGoodrich and Nexen brands were included in the study but not ranked in that segment due to small sample size.
In the performance sport segment, following Pirelli, were: Michelin (692); Goodyear (691); Bridgestone (627); and Continental (621). Included in this study segment but not ranked due to small sample size were Dunlop, Firestone, Kumho, Toyo, and Yokohama.
Power noted that due to the redesign of its 2015 U.S. Original Equipment Tire Customer Satisfaction Study, PP100 scores in the 2015 study cannot be compared with PP100 scores in previous-year studies.