Michelin ranks highest in customer satisfaction among original equipment (OE) tire manufacturers in all four segments examined, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Original Equipment Tire Customer Satisfaction Study released today. The study measures overall customer satisfaction with their original equipment tires in four segments: luxury/sport; mass-market/non-luxury; pickup/full-size van; and SUV. Within each segment, five key factors are examined to measure customer satisfaction. They are: wearability, appearance, traction, ride and handling. Rankings are based on owner experiences with their tires during the first year of ownership. Michelin ranks highest and well above the industry average in each segment and performs particularly well in all segments on all five factors. Additionally, the 2007 study marks the fourth consecutive time Michelin ranks highest in the luxury sport and SUV segments, and the third consecutive time within the pickup/full-size van segment. The study finds that experiencing even one problem with their tires can have a considerable impact on customer satisfaction. Customers who experience a tire problem in the first 12 months of ownership provide satisfaction scores that are 112 points lower (on a 1,000-point index scale) than do customers who say they did not experience any problems. Slow leaks, vehicle pulls left/right and road hazards/puncture are the most frequent customer-reported problems. “While some things — such as road hazards and punctures — are out of the tire manufacturers’ control, there are other elements specifically related to tire quality that manufacturers can certainly manage,” said Allison LaDuc, senior research manager of automotive product quality at J.D. Power and Associates. “Traction and grip, tread wearability and overall ride are all elements that tire manufacturers have control over, and the good news is that these types of issues are not frequently reported by customers. “In particular, poor traction and grip on dry roads is the least-reported problem, which is very good, considering this problem has by far the greatest negative impact on satisfaction.” Additionally, problems related to tire traction have a much greater impact on customer likelihood to recommend their OE tire brand than do road-hazard-related issues. Only 8 percent of customers who experience a problem related to road hazards report they “definitely will not” recommend their tire brand, compared with 45 percent of customers who experience poor traction on dry roads reporting they “definitely will not” recommend their tire brand. The study also finds that while tire wearability continues to be the most important factor contributing to overall customer satisfaction, it also receives the lowest satisfaction ratings from customers across all four segments. “While many customers use objective measures like tread gauges or wear bars to determine tire wear, there are still a number of customers who rely on visual appraisals, unusual noises and notably decreased performance to determine when their tires are worn,” said LaDuc. “Considering the importance of tire wearability, achieving high levels of customer satisfaction for this important feature should be of prime importance to manufacturers, especially since satisfaction impacts repurchase intent and recommendations, which can lead to new business.” The 2007 Original Equipment Tire Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 19,839 owners who purchased new 2005 and 2006 model-year vehicles. Owners were surveyed after 12 and 24 months of ownership. The study was fielded in March and April 2007.