Such was the case recently when Michelin invited dozens of journalists, bloggers and "influencers" to its Laurens Proving Grounds in rural South Carolina, about 60 miles south of Spartanburg.
During that event, Michelin set up wet braking and wet handling demonstrations, comparing new and worn Michelins against new and worn competitor's tires. The "worn" tires were ones Michelin had buffed to 3/32nd inch; the tire maker opted for buffed tires to ensure full-width tread patterns for more equitable comparisons.
The wet braking test pitted four identically prepared 2018 Toyota Camrys, two with new tires and two with tires worn to 3/32nd inch. The test was a full-force stop from 45 mph.
On average, the new Michelin stopped in 78.4 feet on the wet concrete; the competing brand took 104.5 feet. When worn, the Michelin increased that distance to 87.5 feet, a 12% jump, and the competing brand needed 121.2 feet, 16% farther.
The test was repeated with Ford F-150s; the Michelin went from 90.5 feet new to 120.3 feet worn (33% longer), while the competing brand jumped from 109 feet to 141 (29%).
The wet-handling course test—featuring Nissan Jukes—was more subjective, with the assembled drivers experiencing reduced control with the worn tires but with measurably different, and predictable, results.
Michelin has been making noise about worn-tire performance since 2014, since the launch of the Premier A/S with EverGrip technology, which combines a unique rubber compound designed for enhanced wet grip, hidden grooves that emerge as the tire wears down and expanding rain grooves that widen over time.
At that time, then Michelin COO Scott Clark said the Premier A/S tire represented a "significant breakthrough in automotive safety" and a break in the "traditional paradigm" of tire performance over time.
Michelin's internal testing shows that worn tires can be even more unequal in their braking performances.
Michelin's message has evolved over the intervening four years to include economic (removing tires prematurely costs drivers more than €21 billion globally) and ecological (early tire removal takes roughly 400 million tires a year worldwide out of service needlessly) reasons in addition to the safety and performance issues.
Citing this combination of issues, Clark—now chairman and president of Michelin North America—called on the global vehicle and tire industries at the North American International Auto Show to consider adopting testing procedures for partially worn tires.
Clark at that time acknowledged that moving from Michelin-derived testing to independent third-party testing and eventually to an accepted industry standard will be a long and complicated process—a position a number of Michelin's competitors shared.
Nonetheless, Clark said the issue is "something Michelin believes all of us need to start thinking about."
The Michelin leadership reiterated and expounded upon that message during the recent testing at the 3,500-acre Laurens Proving Ground.
While some would question Michelin's strategy as revenue-impairing in the short term, the company argues that serving consumers needs increases the chances of winning them over as repeat customers, which in turn results in increased business long-term.
Tire Business asked Michelin's major competitors to weigh in on the matter.
Bridgestone Americas shares Michelin's belief in the quality and performance of its tires, both at the time of purchase and throughout their life on a vehicle, as well as a commitment to helping consumers make informed purchase decision.
"We do have concerns about the data quality and repeatability of the testing other tire manufacturers currently are proposing," according to Dave Johnson, chief quality officer.
"Artificially prepared worn tires do not duplicate real-world wear and tire performance, and there are other criteria beyond braking distance to consider such as performance in seasonal conditions and driving in deep water, for example."
Tire performance over time is influenced by a number of factors, including driver behavior and proper tire care and maintenance, Johnson said, noting that many consumers "are unaware of the critical role proper maintenance plays in ensuring tire safety and performance over time. "