Motorists are 'changing tyres too soon', top maker claims
Motorists are adding to their fuel bills by changing their tyres far too soon - and at too high a tread depth - a leading manufacturer warns.
In an extraordinary development, Michelin experts are contradicting the widely-held view that cars are safer if their tyres are changed when tread depth reaches 3mm rather than the 1.6mm lowest legal minimum.
Extensive research and trials have shown that tyres with 3mm tread can dramatically shorten stopping distances -especially in the wet - thereby significantly reducing the risk of accidents.
Data to that effect is helping to spearhead a widespread campaign for the deeper tread depth, with better grip, to be made compulsory.
But, in a direct and strident contradiction of this, Michelin are saying that good-quality tyres are highly effective - right down to the minimum 1.6mm.
They claim people who change at 3mm are merely adding to their fuel bills, while pushing up emissions and general running costs.
Their stance will spark controversy, especially on safety grounds.
But the company's research director Bernard Delmas was adamant in telling Independent Motors in Paris that their research shows good-quality tyres are safe at 1.6mm.
He strenuously disputed claims by some manufacturers that 3mm should become the norm. In doing so, he made the distinction between 'good' and 'poor' quality tyres.
He emphasised that his claim on 1.6mm safety is based on 'good' quality products.
He also called for all tyres to be tested to compare their performance at 1.6mm.
When pushed hard on the ramifications of what he was saying, he told me: "We have no doubt that 1.6mm is absolutely safe.
"And not just Michelin but other makes of good tyres are perfectly safe."
Asked if such claims would lead to accusations that his advice might put people at risk, he said: "We are saying the very opposite.
"With good quality tyres you are safe down to 1.6mm. People are changing too soon."
Mr Delmas insisted his claims are not biased towards his company's products: "The 1.6mm tread is for all good tyres made by all manufacturers."
Michelin have calculated that changing at 1.6mm rather than 3mm can cut tyre costs by 12.5pc a year.
They also estimate that doing so would save 900 million litres of fuel a year in Europe.
And they calculate that going to the lower tread depth would reduce CO2 emissions by three million tonnes a year across Europe.
Tyres with shallower tread depth have lower rolling resistance and require less energy to be kept on the move.
One-fifth (20pc) of a car's fuel is consumed by tyres' rolling resistance.