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The Lean Green Gas of Home, SEMA Notes & Tire Trained Women

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Where have all of the green tires gone? Long time passing…apparently.

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At the SEMA Show/Global Tire Expo last week, I walked through a number of tiremaker booths and checked out the new rubber. Perhaps I didn’t look in all of the right places (there were a lot of tires), but I can’t recall seeing the words “fuel” and “efficient” posted next to each other on many (if any) of the product description placards.

Not that long ago, tire fuel efficiency was all the rage, and manufacturers large and small were touting the “significant” and “industry leading” improvements to their products’ rolling resistance factors. One set of tires could well save a family more than $350 in fuel costs over the life of the tires!

With pump prices shrinking, the “greening” of tires was apparently kicked to the curb. They are still there, and some are still promoted, but the rush on the consumer side appears to have cooled. Now we’re back to boring old 3-D siping and water dispersing tread grooves.

Across the street in the medium truck tire realm, tire fuel efficiency is still a thing. But I wonder just how big a thing it really is….or could be.

Lower oil prices also pushed diesel pump prices lower; just down I-77 from our offices one can load up on diesel at a comfy $2.49 per gallon.

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Curiously, the EPA SmartWay’s once steep attainment goal has become pedestrian. Between 2014 and 2015, the list of SmartWay verified medium truck radials – all axles – jumped nearly 90%!

There are now nearly 650 unique steer, drive and trailer axle tires on the verified list, and a large number are under brand names few know. Some claim that a goodly number of these China-produced radials are selling in the $100-$150 per tire range, surely undercutting fresh, professionally produced retreads – and even well-tended casings, according to some insiders.

With that many carrying the vaunted “verified” label, one has to wonder if the EPA isn’t just handing out “Congratulations on Your Participation” ribbons to any tire rolling its way.

Getting the SmartWay stamp of approval requires demonstrating a rolling resistance coefficient at or below established target values. But this self-testing is not checked or monitored, so the pathway to the cherished word “verified” is fairly paved smooth.

But even at $2.49 per gallon, truck fleets remain keenly interested in tire fuel efficiency. So I wonder if perhaps the EPA needs to tighten its SmartWay standards a bit, and help truck fleets make better tire decisions that are better rooted in demonstrated excellence rather than just showing up.

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650 is a great number for, say, a high school class reunion. But if businesses are pegging their budgets on a verification system – and one entire state is mandating the use of verified products – the invite list to the SmartWay party needs to be shortened, I suggest.

* * * * * * * *

If you attended the SEMA Show/Global Tire Expo earlier this month, I would be interested in hearing your comments about this.

It seemed to me that the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, home of the GTE, was more “open” than previous years. That may be because by our count there were marginally fewer exhibitors and floor traffic was noticeably down. Not sure at all why, though there seemed to be fewer wheel companies displaying, and SEMA did its darnedest to steer traffic outside to adjacent asphalt lots or temporary tented digs.

Nothing wrong with that…unless the exhibitors were counting on high booth traffic in the South Hall. Everybody measures show success in different ways, and booth traffic is still a key thing for quite a few exhibitors. I will say that most I spoke with expressed no dismay, and, in fact, thought the quality of visitor was much improved over prior years.

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During the show, interestingly, our colleagues at Tyres & Accessories reported that the organizers for the 2016 Reifen show in Essen, Germany, have signed all of the “20 largest tire manufacturers in the world.” Key players like Bridgestone, Continental, Cooper, Goodyear, Falken, Hankook, Maxxis, Michelin, Pirelli and Yokohama and more will be on the Reifen floor, according to Messe Essen, the show operators, who say that current exhibitor commits are up 15% from the same period for the last edition in 2014.

In 2014, Reifen attracted 670 exhibitors from all over the world.

Certainly the SEMA Show/GTE did not attract the 20 largest tiremakers or 670 exhibitors; missing from the show floor from that group of 10 were Goodyear, Michelin, Bridgestone and Yokohama; Hankook appeared under its Laufenn banner and Falken set up its race rig display out front. Many other brands were off the floor, but held court in various Vegas suites and cocktail parties.

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Eight doesn’t sound like a big number, but it was music to our ears when we learned that eight women participated in TIA’s first all-female Certified Automotive Tire Service Instructor Training course, held in Denver in early October.

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Certainly a big tip of the hat to TIA and past president Freda Pratt-Boyer for launching the project, which is key to helping women grow in our industry. Never have there been so many women owning, managing and working in tire and service centers, and creating opportunities for them to learn and advance is key to the long-term health of this industry.

Pratt-Boyer was correct in noting that women learn differently from men, and would not benefit in the same fashion in a mixed gender class. It was exciting to learn that TIA will hold another all-female ATS class next year, so stay tuned!

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