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Editor's Notebook

Dale, Dale, He’s Our Man…

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Dale Schermerhorn.
Learn that name and learn it well. He’s our new poster boy.
Dale lives in Connecticut and drives a Honda Accord. That’s really all I know about good old Dale. Except that he doesn’t keep his tires properly inflated.
USA Today – often referred to as the “McPaper” because it serves up news hot, fast and with little thought ®€“ recently conducted a McSurvey of consumers to see just how many people really do check their tire pressure. The unscientific survey of 50 people, conducted who knows where and under unknown conditions, found that:
• More than half had at least one tire underinflated by at least 4 psi
• Most people hadn’t checked their tires in over a month
• And only 20% knew the correct pressure for their tires/vehicle.
Whew! Glad I read that. The McReporters could have saved a few bucks by just checking tires in paper’s parking lot.
Regardless of whether the surveyed tires were checked hot or cold, if we accept USA Today’s McSurvey as a statistically accurate sample of the entire driving population, we’ve got a serious problem. Far greater than perhaps you even see.
There are about 201 million cars and light trucks on America’s roads today. Using USA Today’s figures, that means over 100 million of them are driving around on underinflated tires. And we can safely assume, based on the other stop-the-presses data from this McSurvey, few of the other 100 million vehicles are in much better shape.
You see, we don’t need some bilateral commission or a Congressional subcommittee to tell us the obvious.
We’ve got Dale.
Remember the blistering Bridgestone/Firestone (BFS) took when it dared suggest consumer neglect was a possible reason for its tire problems? By taking a common sense position, they were vilified in the national media and by Congressmen who probably hadn’t checked the tires on their limos in weeks.
And then you read about good old Dale – the all-time champ. The McPaper’s McSurvey said his right front had 60 psi in it. And his rear tires were both underinflated by four pounds each.
I’m sure Dale is a pleasant, well-meaning fellow. Probably a pillar of the community. Nice wife and great kids. Hope he’s got good insurance.
But Dale is now the official poster boy for all of America – the land of “I-can’t-be-bothered” and home of the glove box-bound tire gauge.
Like the country he now represents, Dale’s suffering from inflation deficiency syndrome (IDS). “I probably pumped it up too much,” an embarrassed Dale admitted to the crack USA Today investigative team when asked about his inflation problem.
As one Congressman suggested in the BFS recall hearings, Dale and all American consumers deserve tires that require no maintenance whatsoever. Tires should air themselves, the honorable Representative from Oz figures. Of course, I’m still waiting for lawnmower blades that sharpen themselves and a computer that knows what I really meant to type.
The point is that Dale, our IDS poster child, and the rest of America does deserve a tire industry that actively works to educate consumers on proper tire care. Makers and sellers alike.
Beleaguered BFS has moved forward with a nationwide consumer education campaign aimed at IDS-inflicted people just like Dale. I hear a couple of other tire companies may step out and speak directly to consumers about tire safety. And the RMA, as you would expect, is also tackling consumer education.
I’ve heard from dealers who’ve taken advantage of the recall to educate customers on the importance of proper inflation, what it means to the life of their tires, and the lives of their families. I truly hope every dealer – regardless of the recall – will now take the time to do that with every customer. Forever.
It’s a start. But this entire industry needs more. Much, much more. And it needs to extend beyond the walls of tire retailers and straight into every La-Z-Boy across the continent. As BFS Chairman John Lampe told Congress,  “If there is any good that has come out of this very bad situation, it’s the need for the American people to be fully informed about tire safety.”
So let’s just do it.
It’s time every manufacturer, every marketer and every retailer step up their education efforts. We certainly can’t change things over night. But if we don’t start now, we’ll never make a dent.
Besides, we already have a poster boy.

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