Tire buyers beware

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Tire buyers beware

Postby redwagon » 18 Dec 2009, 23:09

It has long been common practice for manufacturers to produce tires in different locations. Different products for different markets. However, the last few years have seen a rise in the number of supposedly identical tires, produced in different locations, with completely different levels of quality. Note that the tires in question are not counterfeits, but genuine tires produced for or by the big name brands.

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Goodyear F1 GSD3. Very popular tire in the USA, topping the survey results at online tire seller websites like tirerack.com for some years. The USA only received this tire from the plant in Germany. Asian customers initially had German production tires and market reception was very good. Within about six months tires from the Thai factory started to show up and so did the complaints. The Thai versions look the same, sell for a slightly lower price, and perform very differently from the German ones. The Thai production is okay until pushed a little, where it becomes clear it's inferior to the German model in that once heated up the tire looses grip and slides very easily, with a greasy feeling. The mileage that owners get from the tires is also far less than the German version. This tire is now obsolete, but there is still stock floating around.

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Michelin Pilot Preceda 2. very popular throughout Asia. Initial production in France got a reputation for low noise, great traction wet or dry, and good wear. I fitted a set of these on my old car in 2006 and they were only worn out this year, after two more owners and a total of close to 40,000km. As I understand it they performed as new right to the end.
About two year ago the tire also went into production in Thailand. Right now, only Thai production is available and French production has ceased. Based on the value of that set, the second owner of my red wagon bought another set, not noticing they were the Thai version. They were just replaced after just 20,000km, almost worn out and having deteriorated in terms of ride comfort and grip quite noticeably in the last few thousand kilometers.

Other brands and models have also been reported as showing different results from different production locations, such as Bridgestones made in Taiwan, so it is not just Thailand that has a problem.

While you can expect to get a reasonable level of performance from a big brand tire regardless of where it was made, there are very real differences in quality between production locations and the savings from the lower cost plants are not being passed onto you the consumer. The Michelins mentioned above were just a few percent cheaper than the French production and lasted only half as long, so you can see it's a false economy to buy on price alone. A smart shopper would search for the tire name and production country to see if there are bad reviews before buying. I won't say it's a specialty trick of Taiwanese tire dealers to palm these tires off as premium product, but they are surely profiting by taking advantage of consumer ignorance.
I buy brand name tires and pick those made in a first world country, and preferably the one the company is based in. ie. I try to buy Michelins made in France, Continentals made in Germany, Bridgestones made in Japan and so on.

Another thing to watch out for is product age. Rubber is aged by ozone and sunlight and although tires are protected with grease during molding and kept out of the sun, they still age in storage. Always check the tire sidewalls when buying for the production date. Tire dates are always noted as year and week number, in four digits (YY, WK or WK, YY)

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Personally I would not buy a tire made more than six months beforehand if I was planning on using it for a couple of years.

Remember people, if a deal seems to be too good to be true....
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Re: Tire buyers beware

Postby Captain Stag » 19 Dec 2009, 00:19

From the Thai made PP2s that lasted less than 20,000km, to French made Michelin Pilot Sport PS2, I have to say that the difference is massive. The PS2 are far from cheap but they are in a completely different league than the Thai made PP2s.

It's too early to tell, so I can't comment on the PS2s wear....but I'll keep this updated as mileage builds up.
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Re: Tire buyers beware

Postby redwagon » 19 Dec 2009, 01:48

@iix23: I can only tell you that the answer from Michelin about the differing qualities was that they were expecting that average drivers wouldn't notice the difference, and that unless you pushed the tires you wouldn't see a difference at all.

Personally I take that as an admission that they are quite calculating in what they are doing, and accepting that localized production is inferior. I think from a marketing stance they try to keep the price levels similar so as not to put pressure on European retail prices. From a technical stance I can tell you that Michelin production in Europe is largely from latex from Brazil while Thai production is based on local latex. I can also tell you that while the base latex does make a difference, there is so much filler and other material in a tire that the overall mix can easily make up for a quality difference in latex. I worked for a while in the tire industry and you would be amazed how much of your tire is straight dirt!

I will just say that Asia in general cares more about image than performance, that vehicle speeds on average are much lower, and that there is much more pressure on retail price levels than in Europe. All of this puts great pressure on companies like Michelin to hold costs down and if general expectations of the product are lower then yes, they will cut corners in the knowledge that the average consumer will never figure out they have been duped.

I'm sure that if the average driver here had never run the French PP2 tires, he wouldn't realize how bad the Thai ones are.
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Re: Tire buyers beware

Postby iix23 » 19 Dec 2009, 09:44

redwagon wrote:@iix23: I can only tell you that the answer from Michelin about the differing qualities was that they were expecting that average drivers wouldn't notice the difference, and that unless you pushed the tires you wouldn't see a difference at all.

Personally I take that as an admission that they are quite calculating in what they are doing, and accepting that localized production is inferior. I think from a marketing stance they try to keep the price levels similar so as not to put pressure on European retail prices. From a technical stance I can tell you that Michelin production in Europe is largely from latex from Brazil while Thai production is based on local latex. I can also tell you that while the base latex does make a difference, there is so much filler and other material in a tire that the overall mix can easily make up for a quality difference in latex. I worked for a while in the tire industry and you would be amazed how much of your tire is straight dirt!

I will just say that Asia in general cares more about image than performance, that vehicle speeds on average are much lower, and that there is much more pressure on retail price levels than in Europe. All of this puts great pressure on companies like Michelin to hold costs down and if general expectations of the product are lower then yes, they will cut corners in the knowledge that the average consumer will never figure out they have been duped.

I'm sure that if the average driver here had never run the French PP2 tires, he wouldn't realize how bad the Thai ones are.


Thank you for the answer.
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Re: Tire buyers beware

Postby lumka1 » 20 Dec 2009, 07:54

This might be a silly question, but how do I know where the tire was manufactured? As far as I know, there is no 'made in Thailand' label on the tire'. This is quite disconcerting, paying a premium price for a premium brand with inadequate quality control...
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Re: Tire buyers beware

Postby redwagon » 20 Dec 2009, 10:32

lumka1 wrote:This might be a silly question, but how do I know where the tire was manufactured? As far as I know, there is no 'made in Thailand' label on the tire'. This is quite disconcerting, paying a premium price for a premium brand with inadequate quality control...

Most countries require by law the country of origin to be molded into the tire. Interestingly, in the case of the PP2, the country of origin was molded into both tires. The French version of this asymmetric tire on the outside sidewall as mounted for all to see, the Thai version on the inside sidewall, hidden from view when installed. I wonder why they did that.... :ponder:
Any tire which lacks the mark of country of origin, or had it removed should be avoided like the plague.

With the tires mentioned it's not so much a case of poor quality control as one of different specifications and failure to communicate that to the customer. I'm sure that tires produced by the big brands in any location have only as many defects on average as those in 1st world countries. The difference is that they are molded from rubber compounds which perform and last very differently.

Michelin and Goodyear are both the sole owners of their factories in Thailand. Smaller brands often subcontract production to other manufacturers in countries with cheap labor and a target market, and that loss of control over production inevitably raises the risk of poor quality at the end of the line. These two however have no such excuse.
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Re: Tire buyers beware

Postby Captain Stag » 20 Dec 2009, 14:07

Tire buying checklist for you guys.

1- Brand and model (ex: Michelin PE2)
2- correct tire size for your wheels. (example: 215/45-17....stick to OEM tire sizes or risk having fitment issues relating to your wheels width)
3- Place of production (France, Japan, Brazil, Thailand...) Must be written on tire.*
4- Date of production (week number and last two digits of year. example: 2709 means...27th week of 2009.)**

Items 1 and 2 are no-brainers, but items 3 and 4 are where it can make or break a purchase.

*Note for #3: As discussed in the OP of this thread, pay extra attention to where the tires have been made. As a preferential choice, tires manufactured in Europe (and Japan for Asia) have proven to be of better build quality than tires made in third world countries. And without very much difference (if none at all) in pricing.

**Note for #4: Date of production is equally important since tires do not stay 'fresh' for ever. As a rule, do not accept tires that have been produced at a date that would make them more than a year old at time of purchase. Of course, retailers prefer that you don't know about this info, but it must be indicated on the tire. So, check all four tires' dates before giving the green light. Fresher is better.
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Re: Tire buyers beware

Postby MJB » 20 Dec 2009, 14:24

This thread somehow seems to be directly aimed at...me.

BF goodrich...Oh yeah baby.

Following day: And the sidewall says... Made in Thailand. Crap! :doh:
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Re: Tire buyers beware

Postby Captain Stag » 20 Dec 2009, 14:29

MJB wrote:This thread somehow seems to be directly aimed at...me.

BF goodrich...Oh yeah baby.

Following day: And the sidewall says... Made in Thailand. Crap! :doh:


on your car? weren't those tires new?
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Re: Tire buyers beware

Postby MJB » 20 Dec 2009, 14:42

Captain Stag wrote:
MJB wrote:This thread somehow seems to be directly aimed at...me.

BF goodrich...Oh yeah baby.

Following day: And the sidewall says... Made in Thailand. Crap! :doh:


on your car? weren't those tires new?


Yessir, straight off the boat...From Thailand.
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