NOKIA, Finland—Claims by Nokian Tyres that the use of specially made tires to improve results in tire tests was common practice in the industry have drawn a strong denial from rival manufacturer Michelin.
Nokian engaged in the malpractice of providing bespoke tires to testing centers in order to achieve better results, a company official said on Feb. 26.
“We admit that we are guilty of sending pre-produced tires for testing, sometime half a year before their production started and sometime the tires were a bit different from the ones that went on the shelves,” he went on to say.
And we are sorry about this practice, which has been “quite normal” in the tire industry, he added.
Michelin, however, responded with a Feb. 29 statement insisting that it had “never designed or manufactured tires specifically for tests conducted by the media, automobile associations or any other organizations”.
The French tire-maker said that it had “for years conducted reproducible tests that reflect real life driving conditions using series production tires. Michelin has always been committed to ensuring that the conditions used to test its tyres faithfully represent the conditions encountered by consumers in their actual day-to-day usage.”
Nokian's announcement came in the wake of a recent report by Finnish business daily Kauppalehti, which cited internal emails that alleged that company had been rigging test results for the past decade.
“It is difficult to comment on those emails as we have not seen them, but all I can say is that our CEO discussed the issue with the magazine in an interview on Feb. 24 in a move to be proactive about it,” a Nokian spokesman said.
“We admit that we are guilty of sending pre-produced tires for testing, sometime half a year before their production started and sometime the tires were a bit different from the ones that went on the shelves,” the spokesman added.
The tire maker released a statement in the aftermath of the report that said it audited its operations and clarified its rules for test tires, which now specifically forbid any planning or manufacturing of tires that are targeted only for car media tests.
The spokesman clarified that the practice, had stopped well over a year ago. Nowadays major tire testers procure their tires independently to avoid such issue.
The Nokian statement also stressed that its products have always been “high quality” and “safe” despite the practice.
Also, it clarified that the company had never decided on such schemes that would encourage cheating in tests.