Tire aging remains a hot-button issue in our industry because those for and against establishing a definitive expiration date for tires are often polar opposites.

One side, led by consumer interest groups and plaintiffs attorneys, is calling for tires to come out of service after six years. What little data they cite to back up their claims is minimal and incomplete. The Big Three vehicle manufacturers side with them.

The other side claims there is no scientific data to support a six-year expiration date. The Rubber Manufacturers Association and its members are reluctant to set a date in stone, although they understand that tires do degrade over time. Some tire manufacturers seem to be supporting a 10-year timeframe as an alternative.

My blog last Thursday talked about a sensationalistic report on tire aging that aired recently on ABC's Channel 5 in Cleveland, Ohio. A lot of you commented on my blog and its teaser news item. To read the comments, check out the following:

"Tire aging: 6 years? 10 years? It's time to make a  decision."

"Another tire aging report, another scathing attack."

Following the "5 on Your Side" investigation, which included some spotty statistics collected over the last 20 years, Ohio Senator Tom Patton introduced legislation that addresses tire aging (see "Ohio senator defines new vs. used tires").

My publisher, Greg Smith, a 35-year industry veteran, also decided to weigh in on the subject. In a memo sent to me by registered mail (which was weird, given that his office is in the same building, four offices down from me), he explained his confusion with all the hullabaloo (his word, not mine).

Memo to: Bob Ulrich

From: Greg Smith

Subject: Blog on tire aging

You’re looking at the over-hyped tire aging scare campaign by local television stations the wrong way! It’s unbelievably great for the industry! Left unchecked, tire companies will sell more tires without lifting a finger! (I'm so excited, I can't stop using exclamation points!) Let me explain.

Can you imagine the reaction if the tire manufacturers went to NHTSA and demanded that consumers buy new tires whenever their tires reached six years of age -- and backed up their claim only armed with the "evidence" offered in the reports by those who want a six-year expiration date???

I can see it now. The industry would say, “Even though accident reports don’t require police to look at the age of tires in all cases, we dug up some information that shows over a 20-year period, 233 deaths occurred in traffic accidents where it was noted that a tire was more than six years of age." To put this in perspective, according to NHTSA, there were 25,580 fatal car accidents in the U.S. in 2012, a rate, which thankfully continues to drop each year. (It was over 41,000 in 1995.)

Consumer watchdog groups, Congress, the EPA and probably the president would launch attacks against the industry for “scare tactics in a lame effort to sell more tires!” 

The uproar would be greater than the failed initial attempt to develop a website for the Affordable Health Care Act. Can you imagine the questions for tire company R&D folks by politicians (picture the pot-bellied Jack S. Phogbound from the Li'l Abner comic strip)?

Politician: Do all tires age at the same rate?

Tire manufacturers: No.

Politician: Why not?

Tire manufacturers: It depends on a wide variety of factors -- exposure to sun, heat, ozone, how they are stored, in what part of the country they are used, did the driver ever do damage to the tire by hitting pot-holes, etc.

Politician: But you’re telling me that at six years of age the tire must be removed from service?

Tire manufacturers: Yes.

In the words of Joe Peschi in “My Cousin Vinny,” the politician would say, “I’ve got no more use for this guy!”

Bob, your buddy Sean Kane and his unwitting partners at local television stations are doing the dirty work for the industry. And better still, the industry is able to go on record as protesting against tire aging standards. It's a win-win!

If enough television stations across the country keep promoting this, politicians will blindly pass a law allowing tire retailers across the country to more often than not point out the DOT codes to their customers and, with a straight face, tell them “I can’t let you drive your car off my lot until you buy a 'new' set of tires -- it’s the law!”

I’m already imagining sales of 400 million passenger tires per year.

Author

Bob Ulrich
Bob Ulrich

Editor, Retired

Editor Bob Ulrich has earned a reputation as an industry expert thanks to his insightful, in-depth articles and blogs on the tire industry. Before joining Modern Tire Dealer in 1985, Bob earned a B.A. in English literature from Ohio Northern University. Also, he graduated from the University of Akron School of Law with a J.D.

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Editor Bob Ulrich has earned a reputation as an industry expert thanks to his insightful, in-depth articles and blogs on the tire industry. Before joining Modern Tire Dealer in 1985, Bob earned a B.A. in English literature from Ohio Northern University. Also, he graduated from the University of Akron School of Law with a J.D.

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