“When the Bridgestone Turanza EL 400s I was testing finally broke loose on the wet skid pad, I could feel it beginning to happen,” said tire dealer Darren Rutherford. “Yet there was never a time when I felt I was losing control of the Chevy Impala.”
Rutherford, one of 48 Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire (BFNAT) dealers invited to the company’s Ft. Stockton, Texas, proving grounds in late January, is talking about the way a tire telegraphs what it’s doing. He sampled a pair of Bridgestone tires and one Firestone model. “All three sent the kind of predictable messages every driver loves to feel,” said Rutherford, with Fred’s Tire Store in Shawnee, Okla.
Rutherford loves the return of the Firestone Wide Oval and the GTO. “A lot of things are going retro in today’s marketplace. I think the timing is perfect to introduce a W-rated, high-tech Wide Oval harnessed to the high-tech ‘Goat.’”
Under the microscope were three new BFNAT tires introduced a few months ago at the 2004 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Specifically, tire dealers were given the chance to experiment with P265/70R16 Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenzas mounted on Toyota 4Runners, 245/45R17 Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval ultra-high performance tires mounted on Pontiac GTOs and P225/60R16 Bridgestone Turanza EL 400s fitted to Chevrolet Impalas.
“We put test drivers in the vehicles with our tire dealers to help them learn how to drive consistently and smoothly over our 900×500-foot paved vehicle dynamics area,” said Mark Johnson, BFNAT manager of product marketing. The skid pad was covered with 1/10-inch of water for wet traction testing.
“We thought it would be a good idea to introduce these dealers to the kinds of tests we conduct before releasing a tire for sale,” said Johnson. “Much of our development is very high tech. What most people forget is that, ultimately, we must build a tire and test it in the real world before it goes to market.”
“I walked away feeling that BFNAT is accomplishing better results through good chemistry and technology over aggressive tread designs,” said Rutherford. The Bridgestone Dueler Alenza, for example, is designed for luxury SUVs,” he said. “It doesn’t have a wildly aggressive tread pattern, but it performs like a light truck tire.” The tire features BFNAT’s “ever black” technology, which keeps the tire looking new through its life. “I think that’s important to the customer who drives a $50,000 Escalade,” the dealer said.
Tire dealer Charlie Proctor from Proctor Tire in Stuttgart, Ark., was impressed with the new Wide Oval, which he tested on the skid pad. “I felt as if I was dancing with that car and those tires,” he said.
For those BFNAT dealers who didn’t make the trip, BFNAT is taking its “Classroom Behind the Wheel” show on the road for the duration of 2005.
And, to help boost sales, the tiremaker is offering a 50,000-mile limited treadwear warranty on its Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval line and a 65,000-mile limited treadwear warranty on its Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza entry. Plus, BFNAT offers a 70,000-mile limited treadwear warranty with the T-rated version of the Bridgestone Turanza EL 400 and a 40,000-mile warranty on the H- and V-rated versions.