The newest tire in Michelin North America Inc.’s fleet isn’t designed to be an original equipment star. But that’s not to say the tire manufacturer isn’t expecting big things from the Defender LTX M/S. Michelin believes the Defender LTX is destined to become its top selling light truck tire — in part because it’s replacing the company’s current No. 1 LT tire.
The Defender LTX is a light truck product that comes from melding the long-lasting traits of Michelin’s successful three-year-old Defender passenger line with its most popular light truck tire, the LTX M/S2. Using the tread pattern and depth of the LTX M/S2, amping it up with Evertread compounding, and ensuring the long-lasting wear of the Defender line, the new Defender LTX offers the best of all worlds.
“We were committed to making improvements without compromise or sacrifices,” says Stephen Peters, Michelin’s light truck brand category manager.
“There’s such a loyal following out there for the LTX M/S2. We want to make it better, but not so unfamiliar to folks that it causes some heartburn.”
That’s why the Defender LTX looks like and is built to match its predecessor. The Evertread compounding is “the toughest compound that we have available” in the United States, and it’s designed to handle the ever-increasing torque demands of today’s trucks. From 2009 to 2011 Michelin says the average torque of ¾-ton trucks increased 23%.
“It’s amazing to me that vehicles, say a F-150, can pull as much as a heavy duty truck 15 years ago,” Peters says.
That doesn’t mean every truck owner is hauling more, or hauling anything at all. But Peters says there’s a common refrain among truck owners who do put their vehicles to the test. “No matter what we put on my truck it’s not going to get over 30,000 miles.”
Michelin is marketing the Defender LTX as the answer to that complaint with two key words: “Stronger. Longer.” Peters says the company’s test data shows the new compound alone extends this tire’s life by 10% compared to the LTX M/S2.
The Defender LTX’s fitment reach is expansive, and Michelin says it covers 77% of the market — up from the 63% for the LTX M/S2, which is being phased out. With 71 sizes — 46 P-metric and 25 LT — the tire will fit “a huge range of vehicles,” Peters says. And like its passenger tire namesake, the Defender LTX focuses on three traits consumers demand: durable tread life, all-season confidence and fuel efficiency.
The P-metric sizes, typically for half-ton trucks and SUVs, come with the same 70,000-mile warranty as the predecessor, and Peters says, “We do think that the tire will last longer.” The “huge” spectrum of fitments for this tire is one of Michelin’s widest offerings, and the company knows “there will be plenty of consumers that get plenty more miles than that.”
The LT sizes carry a 50,000-mile warranty, and that’s less coverage than the current LTX M/S2 offers. But Peters says the Evertread compound lasts longer than the compound in the LTX M/S2. He’s yet to have a dealer tell him the 50,000-mile promise is a bad deal.
“All competitors are at 50,000 miles. The warranty is a selling tool, but not a real world thing,” Peters says. “The goal is to take the Defender promise and extend it to the LT line.”
Michelin says its Evertread technology increases strength without sacrificing performance. In P-metric sizes the Defender LTX stands up better on gravel to chip and tear resistance compared to the LTX M/S2, while treadlife, wet traction, snow traction and rolling resistance are unchanged. With the LT sizes, treadlife and chip and tear resistance both are improved, while wet traction, snow traction and rolling resistance remain unchanged.
Roll out of the first 45 sizes of the Defender LTX begins Aug. 1 and will continue through November in the United States. The next 26 sizes are coming in June 2016.