Less money spent on tires means more money for car parts.
In a move that seemingly saves its customers money but forgoes the opportunity to make some extra cash, Michelin has blasted attempts by EU regulators to increase the minimum legal tread depth from 1.6mm to 3mm. The motivation behind this proposed EU law is safety, since it’s assumed that tires perform their best in emergency situations when new and with ample amounts of tread left. However, Michelin, citing its own testing, claims that this is simply not true.
In a press release titled “The Truth About Worn Tires,” Michelin claims that enacting such a law would have huge financial and environmental costs for the EU. If drivers were forced to replace their sets of rubber with 3mm of tread still left, Michelin claims it would result in an additional 128 million additional tires being used in Europe each year. That alone will cause 9 million tons of extra CO2 to be released into the atmosphere. Such a law would force European drivers to shell out an extra €6 billion ($6.67 billion) for unneeded tires. Hey, safety comes at a price, right? Well this is true, but according to the tire manufacturer, there is no evidence that early replacement would save lives.
Independent studies conducted by Michelin have found hardly any discrepancies between braking distances on new tires and those that are considered worn when stopping on wet pavement. Surprisingly, Michelin discovered that dry braking distance may actually improve on a worn tire compared to a brand new set. It may seem a bit odd for a tire manufacturer to dissuade lawmakers from enacting a law that would ultimately result in drivers buying more tires, especially when Michelin stood to get a slice of that $6.67 billion pie, but the company may be making the announcement for selfish reasons. That’s because Michelin's results were derived on its own set of tires.
When conducting these tests on tires from different manufacturers, the results may tell a different story, which is a likely scenario for bottom-shelf tire producers. Ultimately, that would only serve to further promote Michelin. Whether or not the move was self-serving or a good deed done to save drivers money (we hope we aren't just typing out one big Michelin plug), we can at least agree with Michelin’s concluding rallying cry: let’s conduct more tests on new and worn tires to better understand how age and wear affects performance. Until that happens, don’t take this news as a license to slap balding tires that you drifted the crap out of back on your car.