Maxxis International MD Derek McMartin discusses differing attitudes towards the use of winter tyres
There are many all too familiar excuses for not fitting winter tyres. There’s the extra up-front cost of running two sets of tyres (although this obviously balances over the life of the tyres). There’s the additional effort of changing them over (although it’s hardly strenuous on modern cars). There’s the question of where to store them. And so on. But there is one very good reason for putting all of these relatively minor inconveniences to one side. That is: when the weather falls below 7 degrees celcius it is much safer to have an all-season or winter tyres than summer ones.
In the UK the level of understanding is generally lower than in other European countries – especially those where it is common to drive to winter sports resorts. Coupled with a different consumer buying focus and general apathy from almost everyone outside the tyre industry, this has traditionally led to sales figures for winter tyres that pale into insignificance compared to purchases of summer tyres. It’s interesting to compare this to the situation in Germany, where it is usual to research technical characteristics as well as pricing leads to choices being made as much on true performance as initial cost. Subsequently, it is common to swap tyres as soon as snow and/or ice appear in Germany, with dealers often taking on the responsibility of storing the tyres not being used in return for customer loyalty (and a small fee of course).
It is now so common for Germans to fit more suitable tyres in the colder months that this public sentiment has been translated into national regulation. Can you imagine the sense of achievement for Tyre Safe if it’s on-going lobbying campaign resulted in UK police powers to stop, fine and prevent the onward journey of motorists using tyres that were not best suited to the weather conditions? I’d like to be at that celebration.
The AA strongly recommends using winter tyres, every tyre manufacturer with a voice on the topic advocates fitting them at certain times of year, and given the UK climate, if you’re not going to change your tyres with the conditions, it’s almost certainly safer to run an all-season tyre than a summer tyre. So why is the UK so slow on the uptake? We’ll accept answers on a postcard for that one.
For more information: www.maxxis.co.uk