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Consumer education program still in development

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Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued its final rule on tire fuel efficiency testing, the content and format of its associated consumer education program are still under development.

The agency plans to conduct additional consumer testing "to explore how consumers will best comprehend information" not only on tire rolling resistance but also treadwear and traction.

After this additional testing is complete, NHTSA will publish a new proposal for the consumer education program.

"Prompting NHTSA to pursue a deeper examination of consumers' comprehension of comparative tire information, several comments" from the public have "suggested the agency consider additional indicators for the proposed label that would provide some understanding of  what the ratings mean in terms of the choices available to the consumer.

"These suggestions included the use of an icon or mark on the labels to help consumers at a glance identify the most fuel efficient tire... and suggestions that the ratings show high and low demarcations reflecting the range of ratings within the same size, so that consumers and retailers would not become disenchanted with the system if they could not purchase or provide any top-rated tires in the size for the consumer's vehicle."

Another commentator, reports NHTSA, "expressed concern that the idea of a mark for the best performers in the fuel efficiency rating category, as it could imply government endorsement.

"These comments, as well as comments from other federal agencies, have led NHTSA to recognize that a revised consumer research methodology could provide enhanced understanding of how the presentation of relative rating information affects consumers' perceptions of the relevance of the information, and what motivates consumers to act in accordance with the information they have learned.

"Through additional consumer research, NHTSA will consider how to best promote consumer understanding of th real-world benefits and possible tradeoffs involved in selecting tires at various points along relevant scales."

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