Michelin claim Irish people are changing tyres before they need to
Published 12/10/2016 | 02:30
Michelin is resolutely standing by its claim - revealed in Motors last week - that people are changing their tyres too soon.
Another of its top experts has insisted that tyres can work perfectly well right down to the 1.6mm legal limit.
This again flies in the face of widely-held convictions, based on extensive research, which show that, in the wet, tyres with 3mm tread depth stopped more quickly than those on 1.6mm.
Now Jamie McWhir, Michelin's technical manager for car and 4x4 in the UK and Ireland, has reiterated their stance to Motors: "It is absolutely possible to make tyres that perform well down to the legal limit."
He said people need to be aware that tyres can wear unevenly and need to be carefully examined for correct pressure as well.
"But changing tyres at 4mm or 3mm causes unnecessary expense for the motorist," he said. "They have to change tyres more often and they get rid of their tyres just as they become most fuel-efficient."
He added: "If a tyre is made properly, using the best materials and technologies, it will give you long-lasting performance.
"Tyre labelling was a good step in the right direction, but it's a snapshot of how a tyre performs when it's new. How does it perform when it's done 5,000 miles? Or 10,000 miles or 15,000 miles? Good tyres will keep performing."
Reaction to Michelin's claims has been officially muted, but unofficially disbelieving in some cases.
The fact of the matter is that safety experts did not dismiss it out of hand because the quality of both tyre and of road surface can make a huge difference to adherence and performance.
But the big fear expressed was that people on low-grade tyres might overlook the fact Michelin are basing their claim on quality products. That could lead to people allowing poor tyres go to the legal 1.6mm limit.
The Road Safety Authority, in a statement to the media following the disclosure by Motors, said: "For safety reasons the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and The Royal Society for the prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) recommend that you should have at least 3mm tread on each tyre."
It added: "There is known disparity in the wet grip afforded from varying tyre manufacturers and their individual types of tyres. This is evidenced by the wet-grip scale on the performance labels affixed to new tyres. The braking distance at 80km/hr increases by 18 metres between tyres with wet grip performance label Class A and Class F.
"It is with due consideration to the variances between the quality and the wet grip performance of tyres in the marketplace and inclement weather conditions often experienced here in Ireland, that the RSA has based its recommendations on."
The RSA also quoted an extract from the Michelin website which could be interpreted as a contradiction of its recent comments: "If the surface of the tread rubber is level with these raised areas, the tyre tread depth is most likely very close to the legal limit of 1.6 mm. Or below it! Michelin strongly recommends you consider changing your tyres before this limit is reached. They may no longer provide sufficient safety and you could be breaking the law."
As part of an official statement at the Paris Motor Show, Michelin said it was "rejecting" calls for tyres to be changed when tread depth reached 4mm or 3mm. It also said it "rejects" the "planned obsolescence" advocated by some tyre-makers.
It added: "Changing tyres at 4mm or 3mm costs motorists more money (especially as fuel efficiency increases as the tyre wears) and it increases the environmental impact of making and using tyres."
In his original interview with Motors, the company's research director Bernard Delmas strenuously disputed claims that 3mm should become the norm.