Michelin Phasing Out OEM Supply of PAX
Last year’s speculation that Michelin’s feelings towards its PAX run-flat system had somewhat cooled appears after all to contain substance. The New York Times reports that the tyre major is no longer attempting to sell the system to vehicle manufacturers. Michelin spokeswoman Lynn Mann told the newspaper that this decision had been reached as automotive manufacturers have several other run-flat technology choices available to them and due to the “slow growth of the extended-mobility tyre segment in general.”
Only three years ago Michelin predicted that its tyre-wheel combination “could become as commonplace as fold-flat seats,” however the company’s experiences with PAX in the US have been a saga of customer complaints about high replacement tyre costs and difficulties finding appropriate repair facilities. Michelin still faces a number of lawsuits filed by disgruntled consumers. In spite of this, Ms Mann claims these issues played no role in Michelin’s latest decision, and she added that replacement tyres and service would continue to be made available for vehicles already fitted with the tyres.
With PAX Michelin trod a different path to that of most run-flat manufacturers, spurning the more commonplace approach of sidewall reinforcement in favour of a polyurethane ring inside the tyre. But while the avoidance of a more rigid sidewall preserved ride comfort, the PAX was more difficult to repair than many other run-flat variants, and required special equipment to mount and dismount the tyre. The availability of this equipment was far from widespread.
Some vehicle manufacturers have already reported dropping the PAX from next season’s models. Honda, whose 2005 Odyssey was the first US vehicle to be fitted with the system, has not confirmed whether PAX will be available on this vehicle in 2009; but the Company’s upcoming Acura RL, fitted with the system as an option since 2006, will not be available with PAX in future. The PAX system was also an option on the 2007 Nissan Quest minivan. Nissan is not offering it on the 2008 model.
Even though its days are numbered in terms of OEM supply, Honda recommends that owners of vehicles with the PAX system do not change to conventional wheels. Chris Martin, a Honda spokesman, commented that vehicle suspension is specifically tuned for the PAX tyres, and switching to conventional wheels “would compromise the ride and handling.”