Retail

Tire labeling — smooth success or disaster?

John Stone
Posted on September 14, 2012

As a trained journalist, Stone has been working within the global tire industry for the last 20 years following an initial career in the sports media industry. In 1993, he joined Tyres & Accessories magazine in the United Kingdom as features editor before joining Tyre Trade News (UK) in 2000 as editor. In 2004, he launched his own company — Sapphire Media Services — as a business media consultant.

Over the last eight years, Stone has progressively built up a worldwide client base, and works with companies in Singapore, Thailand, India, South Africa, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, the UK and Ireland. He remains a contributor to Tyre Trade News as a freelance columnist, and also writes for tire and automotive related publications in South Africa and Asia.

His regular column in Modern Tire Dealer will keep readers up-to-date on what is happening in the European tire market, and how it will affect tire dealers in North America.

The concept of tire labeling legislation continues to move toward an eventual global conclusion. Looking at the facts, it is only a matter of time before every continent will have to introduce a law ensuring all tires sold are labeled.

Let’s face it, the issue of tire labeling is nothing new and has been discussed in varying degrees of intensity for several years now. Japan introduced a voluntary program in 2010 which is still in effect; China commenced research into the project last December, and that remains on-going. Now, in just under two months, Europe will become the first market to introduce mandatory tire labeling, followed by South Korea.

On November 1, every tire sold in Europe (including the UK and Ireland) will have to carry a distinct label presenting a performance grading in wet braking, rolling resistance and external noise. This is something of a first for Europe to take such an international lead in business development. The common perception that what happens in America eventually reaches Europe within a decade has been completely turned on its head this time.

At the moment, the United States continues to monitor the situation and can relax and watch at leisure how the new legislation is received and enforced in Europe. Having worked within the European tire markets for the last couple of decades, I have witnessed a number of important industry developments — but none quite like what is going to take place in November.

By now, I’m sure MTD readers have followed the on-going debate this year by all European players from tire manufacturers through to fast-fit/garage outlets. As the deadline gets closer, the frenzy of opinion and action gets even more intense.

There is no doubt that tire producers have been preparing for the labeling for some time, and it is impossible to read any tire-related magazine without learning about the intended grades of each leading brand and the launch of new patterns that are AA rated.

European tire manufacturers put on a united front for new labeling legislation awareness. Tire producers seem prepared to accept and promote the new law.
European tire manufacturers put on a united front for new labeling legislation awareness. Tire producers seem prepared to accept and promote the new law.

History also was made several months ago when three leading tire manufacturers — Michelin, Continental and Yokohama — actually joined forces at a major UK automotive event held by the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders to collectively launch an on-going tire labeling awareness campaign. The event was attended by the national press, and this “united front” was seen as tire producers being fully prepared to accept and promote the new law.

It’s just a shame that the same encouraging focus cannot be extended to other parts of the industry. From my constant dealings with tire wholesalers and distributors, I am convinced that the majority of companies are being influenced by the professionalism of their suppliers and will more or less be ready by November. However, it is at this point when the tires reach the retailers that the slick plan could swiftly unravel.

Having worked within and reported on the tire retail market for many years, I know that the ultimate objective of fast-fit centers, garages and any other outlets for tire sales across Europe is to sell as many tires as possible each day. That is the name of the game — to make a profit!

Come November, every tire sales guy will be expected to properly inform each potential customer on what tire labels mean which is going to definitely slow down the sales process.

Will they actually do this? In some cases yes, but in most cases I think not. Then we have to consider whether drivers are aware of the new legislation and if they actually care.

If statistics are anything to go by, then probably not, as a recent UK industry survey revealed. According to the survey, a staggering 87% of drivers, when questioned, knew absolutely nothing about the impending law. To my knowledge, there has not been a single informative advertisement in magazines or on television explaining tire labeling.

So there you have the current scenario with just weeks to go before enforcement. As they say, will everything work out on the day? Watch this space! I have a feeling that lessons can be learned by the way this major development in the tire industry is handled in Europe. ■

Related Topics: European Notebook, John Stone, Tire labeling

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