PROLIFERATION IS THE NAME OF THE GAME
Some nostalgia in this episode, but bear with me, I’ll get to the point later!
The title comes from an old Bobby Darin song called “Multiplication is the name of the game”, and he wasn’t singing about tyres either.
Nowadays, as far as your local tyre service is concerned, it’s “proliferation of the range of tyre sizes” sold on the Australian market. Were things simpler in the old days? Just read on.
30 years ago, Australians drove Holdens, Falcons, and Chrysler Valiants in numbers. If not them, the deluxe versions Premiers, Fairmonts, and Regals. Around 30 different car models were available.
Today, it’s over 300 models sold on the relatively small, and now fragmented, Australian market.
Should I mention the Leyland P76? Of course, because it illustrates a very important point- that “FASHION RULES”. Besides altering the very neat Italian designed lines of the car to increase the boot (trunk) size- supposedly to accommodate a 44 gallon drum –like why would you want to? the P76 illustrated the influence that stylists have on a car’s appearance.
Just weeks before the launch, the car was shown to the salesmen who were to sell it. They were horrified. “We can’t sell that- the wheels and tyres are too skinny” they said. So seven weeks prior to launch, an upgrade in the width of tyre and wheel equipment was decreed, leaving suppliers of both scrambling to produce them in time.
So the P76 joined the big three in the choice of tyres. 60% of our production at the time was in the 6.95-14 tyre size, and around 15% in the 7.35-14 tyre size. All were cross ply, radials were just coming on-stream. 6.95 was the tyre width in inches- equivalent to a 175 mm wide tyre today (which is “skinny”)
Life was simple then- or was it?
The rub was that the conservative motorist wouldn’t accept the new fangled tubeless tyre- which, let’s face it, weren’t as reliable as they are today- they used to get bubbles under the tread. So we had to make both types. Would you believe, our company (Olympic Tyres) made 84 different 6.95-14 tyres. Listing them from memory, first the tread patterns;- highway, lug, wintertread, town and Country; and the sidewalls with black, full white on one side, triple rings of white, red striped, triple red striped. (Incidentally, the red striped Reflex Radials are highly prized by owners of authentic 351 G.T. Falcons, which bring astronomical prices). The tyres could also be had in either 4 ply or 6 ply rating! That’s just from memory- there had to be others.
That then was an inventory problem.
That’s the nostalgia bit. How does this relate to the modern tyre service confronted with a car model and tyre size he may not have seen before. His first question is “Why do they do it?”
Engineers design cars. The tyre and wheel equipment are an integral part of the suspension, which can be tuned to give the desired ride, handling, vibration periods, harshness, all the while being compatible with the A.B.S. braking system, traction control, and stability control computer based systems, all of which are useless if the tyre doesn’t grip.
So dependent on the model of a particular vehicle design, whether aimed at the sporting motorist, family motorist, boy racer, fuel miser, one of the easy variations is to change the wheel and tyre package. Note- it’s a package. A lighter mag wheel will affect the spring rate, for example, and also run true because it’s a machining, not an assembly of pressings.
Also, some tyre companies have interlocking ownerships with car companies, which aids in reducing development times, we are told. Naturally, there is some bias in the choice of tyre design as a result.
But fashion still rules. Salesmen like selling cars that look bold and spunky, with the wheel wells filled with big diameter mags and wide spunky tyres. The P76 has a lot to answer for!
The effect on your tyre service has been that they realise that they cannot stock a fully representative range of tyres. This transfers the load back to the distribution network of the tyre importer. Rarely is the car distributor of much help at all. So importers have a large central warehouse, with a regional network to back it up. This fundamentally is inefficient. Distributors would love to ship tyres in pallet loads using modern bulk handling equipment direct to your tyre service. But today, this is difficult and impractical.
So what this boils down to, is a delay while your exotic tyre is shipped out from a warehouse that may be three days away, as far as the distribution set up is concerned.
So you have to fall back on running on your spare- if you’ve got one!