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Genius of GM Reminds That Even Donuts Need Some Love

June 13, 2011
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Does it surprise anyone that sometimes General Motors can't seem to get out of its own way? It shouldn't.
Rising from the ashes of a massive crash-n-burn just a few years ago – and billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars – the new GM still hasn’t learned a little humility.

An early May news release from the automaker gave its own people all of the credit for divining, designing and producing the super gas-sipping tires for the new Chevy Cruze. Goodyear, the company that really did create the tires, received nary a mention. Not a whiff.

A few days later the PR department struck again, bragging that GM shaved 26 fuel-sucking pounds off the Cruze’s weight by dumping the spare tire, jack and related equipment, replacing the lot with a handy mini-air compressor. GM said the advent of TPMS “significantly reduced the likelihood that a flat tire will leave you stranded by the side of the road.”

Well, except for that sudden deflation thingy, that is.

Suffice it to say, GM and the Cruze took a hammering on Facebook. According to online car news site Torque News, one poster wrote: “Honestly, let’s throw these morons in a car, jam a knife into the side of one of their tires and let’s do it at about 1 a.m. on the southeast side of Detroit on I-75 and see how useful the air pump is. I guess you could throw it at the guys who are going to rob you!”

Yes, I can now see the value of OnStar, another feature GM touts as an ample replacement for the old spare. A stranded and scared driver can scream for help!

As Frank Sherosky offered on Torque News on May 23, GM is cutting off its nose to spite its face by focusing too much on the Cruze’s alleged 42 mpg fuel economy, which, in fact, is its highway mileage; the city factor is a more pedestrian 28 mpg. Neither Sherosky nor most of the Facebook posters he cited believe one spare tire can mean so much.

Neither does John Rastetter, Tire Rack’s director of tire information, who thinks the decision to delete spares goes much deeper.

“While valued in times of need, spare tires appear to be overlooked by consumers and service providers alike,” Rastetter wrote. “This was recently confirmed when checking the inflation pressures of tires equipping the participants’ vehicles in a recent Tire Rack Street Survival teen driving school in South Bend.”

Out of a fleet of 11 training vehicles, 10 had mini-spares (one BMW had run-flats) typical today. “While all the vehicle placards indicated their mini-spares require 60 psi to carry the vehicle’s load, the actual pressures our coaches measured included 8, 10, 13.5, 24, 26, 26, 27.5 37, 60 and 62 psi; only two of the 10 had enough inflation pressure to give the tire a chance of surviving,” Ras­tet­ter confessed.

“Obviously being 50% to 90% un­derinflated is well beyond not having checked inflation pressures in the last month; it’s an indication these spare tires haven’t seen the light of day in a long, long time,” he wrote. “And for many of these cars, it also meant the vehicle probably had numerous oil changes and shop visits without the service provider looking at the spare, as well.”

Rastetter strongly urges tire dealers to take the time to check spare tire inflation pressures. “It would be a positive step in enhancing customers’ safety – even if it requires a nominal charge for checking those poorly packaged spares that have to be removed to check.”

Great idea, but Rastetter has another key point: Have spare tires become a literal liability?

“The other unknown associated with spare tires is the influence tire aging has on their durability. The actual ages of the spare tires fitted to the recent Street Survival school vehicles ranged from one to 16 years – with half of them having been in service for over seven years already. While scientific evidence identifying the exact influence of chronological age on tire durability has yet to be concluded, common sense tells us that products made of rubber don’t have infinite life spans.

“Therefore, in addition to the vehicle fuel efficiency advantages listed in the original story, eliminating the spare completely also eliminates the liability of a spare tire being put into service without being properly inflated or having aged out before it wore out.”

Perhaps GM is smarter than we thought. Ditching the mini-spare saves weight and pimps its OnStar system – and eliminates a potential source of liability lawsuits!

Of course, tire dealers are much smarter, and can take full advantage of GM’s tire expertise by taking Rastetter’s advice and checking the spare for air – and by offering GM drivers a good old-fashioned spare.

Because as one Facebook poster offered: “When I’m driving I-696 and I get a flat, it’s usually cuz something shredded my tire. No pump is gonna fix that!”