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Columnist Questions Worth of Tires

(Akron/Tire Review) The following column, by staff columnist Jeffrey Whitfield, was published by the Henry County (Ga.) Daily Herald on Mar. 13.

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Clearly, one of the major issues faced by the entire tire industry is consumer education. While some tire companies have “consumer education” programs, the industry as a whole is sorely lacking a definitive approach to improve consumer knowledge of tire technology, safety and value.

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This unfortunate opinion piece, reaching thousands of consumers, demonstrates how ‘tire ignorance’ hurts our industry.

Whitfield, who normally covers education for the newspaper, can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247. – Editor

Spiraling down the highway ahead of me, I saw probably the worst possible scenario: part of the rear wheel tire from my car. In the uncharacteristic 75-degree heat of a winter day on Sunday, I had hit a nail or some other piece of metal in the road. Now I have to do the next best thing: replace the tire on my vehicle.

Now I’m not out to persecute all automobile manufacturers – though not every car mechanic is a knight in shining armor when it comes to repairs.

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But I am cynical when it comes to buying tires, which will be my mission for the coming week. I can’t recall the last time I enjoyed this task. Granted, it would seem to me that car dealers – or other parts sales people – need to make their quotas. And with tire sales, it would seem to me that those only sell every 50,000 or 75,000 miles.

But, honestly: Why does the cost of rubber and whatever metal parts are included in the tire have to cost so much? More than $100? Or maybe nearly $200 for a tire? What?

It’s almost as if automobile parts have a mysterious aura about them when it comes to their daily – or monthly or yearly – use.

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For example, the price of fuel injection equipment for the maximum output required for your vehicle can be substantial, some salespeople might say. So replacing these pieces, if it’s expensive, may be justified, they would add.

Or, here’s my favorite slogan, which I’ve heard on multiple TV commercials for one firm: You can suffer serious damage to “major components” on your vehicle without proper maintenance.

It almost seems as if damage to “major components” is akin to replacing all components. This would not be to imply that “major components,” consisting of (I guess) brakes, axles, radiators, or anything else, don’t need to be replaced.

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But it is to say that some “components,” like tires, aren’t so major when it comes to understanding how they’re made or why they cost so much.

Some firms advocate quality in their tires to justify costs. Large “discount” retailers boast that their prices are inexpensive for tires: I disagree.

If these firms want to be inexpensive (ahem, cheap), perhaps they should just sell tires for what they are really worth – and that is, simple rubber.

But if reality comes into play, retailers will sell tires for what they choose. So I propose another strategy: charging materials and adding quality to that equation.

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Labor may be expensive – there may be time involved in replacing parts – but for the price of tires now, I expect the best equipment possible to be used to put tires on my car. The wheels should be balanced right and I shouldn’t have to have the work done again because it wasn’t initially done properly. Some domestic companies who I won’t name should probably adhere to this advice.

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