Consumer Demand: Living With Regrets

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How to handle LT consumers who want to swap down.

They’re known as “accidental high performance purchasers.” These consumers have bought a small runabout vehicle without realizing it had 35 series tires on it.

And when it comes time to replace those high performance tires, they’re shocked at the cost.

The same holds true for some light truck owners, who may decide that instead of another set of noisy, expensive, hard-riding light truck tires, they want to downgrade to passenger car tires. What’s a tire retailer to do?

“Just don’t!” says Dwayne Sawyer, Director of Sales, Kumho Tire Canada. “Light truck tires are usually required for the load carrying capacity and performance of a light truck. Ride and handling characteristics vary according to the design and manufacture. If the consumer bought their vehicle with OEM equipped LT tires, they have to continue with the same specifications.

“If the truck was equipped with P metric tires and upgraded to an LT, then the consumer can choose to replace a complete set of P metric, but only if the P metric will take the load of the intended use.”

Consumer education

Will Robbins, Product Manager, consumer replacement at Bridgestone Americas. agrees that the single most important consideration is load carrying capacity. “The primary difference is the inflation pressure that the different tires were designed to use,” he says. “The same size 17 inch light truck tire vs. a 17 inch passenger car tire can have 300 kilograms of load carrying difference based on the inflation pressure. That’s per tire. So it’s a total of 1,200 kilograms, over a ton of load carrying capacity that you’re taking away, moving from a light truck tire that would operate at 80 psi to a passenger car tire at 35 psi.

“The tire’s number one job is to carry the load that it was designed to carry, and if you’re putting it in a situation where it’s outside of what it was designed for, there can be unintended or negative consequences.”

It’s the job of the tire retailer to educate the consumer. “There’s a huge amount of information available to the consumer, but they still need to rely on industry experts to help guide them,” says Robbins.

Diminished load

“Every tire has a load and inflation pressure relationship,” says Greg Cressman, technical services director, Yokohama (Canada). “If you change that from the OEM’s recommendation, three years down the road, when a consumer’s spouse is driving that light truck with passenger car tires on it, she has to know whether she needs to put air in the tires, what the inflation pressure has to be, because the placard on the door jamb doesn’t have the right number any more.”

It might seem like an easy replacement because a passenger car tire may look like an LT tire, but it isn’t as straightforward.

“We don’t recommend it,” says Cressman. “It saves a few bucks to go down to passenger car tires, but you’re going to diminish how much load that vehicle can carry. It doesn’t take as much weight. You have to play around with the inflation pressures and you’re probably not going to have the same overall durability of the vehicle because a light truck is built to do its service every day. Passenger car tires are just not built to the same durability standards as light truck tires.”

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