Leading tyre retailers ready for TPMS
The top three UK tyre retailers have presented their views how TPMS will be implemented in the market following questions from Michelin’s Fleet Panel at the end of June. Their answers, which are the most comprehensive response to this topic yet, show that the while all three market leaders report they are ready for TPMS, their views on what this may mean for fleet customers and indeed consumers varies.
ATS Euromaster said it believes the introduction of TPMS is likely to have less of an impact for fleets than consumers as the sensors have a projected lifespan of between five and seven years so servicing costs are likely to impact on second and third-life vehicle owners. But National Tyres said lessons from America where TPMS was introduced in 2006, show that a four to five year estimated lifespan is more realistic.
ATS Euromaster, group sales director Peter Fairlie, commented: “Looking specifically at the cost implications for business fleets, we expect these to have less of an impact. The fact that fleets typically replace their cars on a three to five year lifecycle – and most TPMS sensors have a projected lifespan of five to seven years – means the largest element of the servicing cost is likely to borne by second and third-life vehicle owners, who will need to replace the sensors during this five to seven year window.”
However, group managing director at National Tyres, Kevin Parker, said: “In theory, it was thought sensor valve batteries would last up to seven years. However the reality from the USA experience, where TPMS was introduced in 2006, is that many fail prematurely due to corrosion or damage, high mileage, or if repeated deflation takes place, four to five years’ life is the norm.”
All three distributors said they are running pilot schemes to ensure centres are equipped with the relevant equipment, as well as staff training programmes ahead of the introduction of the legislation in November 2012.
Fast-fits offer fleet panel a range of views on how TPMS will be implemented
Dave Crinson, Head of Fleet Sales for Michelin, said: “We are grateful to ATS Euromaster, Kwik-Fit and National Tyres for the comprehensive responses they provided us with, which we have passed on to members of the Michelin Fleet Panel…Although the servicing and replacement of TPMS will be an additional cost, and the exact life span and cost of the systems cannot be determined yet, the added benefits in terms of safety are undeniable, as well as the improvements in fuel consumption that can be achieved when tyres are at the recommended pressure.”
Indirect TPMS systems, which use a vehicle’s ABS count of wheel rotations as the basis for its pressure warning calculations, doesn’t have any maintenance regime as such. However with this approach damaged or faulty systems require the replacement of the ABS sensor.
Direct systems on the other hand have an individual sensor (known as a TPMS valve) fitted to each wheel and manufacturers recommend servicing as well as repair with these. This is more complicated though due to the many different brands and types of sensors fitted across the varying makes and models of vehicles. The sensor itself is battery powered in a sealed unit and has an approximate lifespan of 80,000 to 100,000 miles dependent on use. As the battery nears the end of its life, the sensor will need to be replaced. Valves may also suffer from corrosion and need replacing sooner.
In addition to offering this general overview, each of the three large retailers went into some details about their current preparedness and plans for the future regarding TPMS, which T&A has compiled into this executive summary presented in alphabetical order below.
Pointing out the history behind TPMS, ATS Euromaster explained that the technology has been around since the 1980s when it was first adopted as an optional feature in the European market for luxury cars before take up accelerated in 1999 after Peugeot adopted it as a standard feature on its 607 model.
ATSE reported that manufacturers recommend that whenever the tyre bead is broken, the TPMS valve and sensor be removed and a service kit be used. The service kit includes a new seat to ensure that the valve seals following the tyre replacement. ATSE has reportedly been replacing and servicing TPMS valves and sensors in selected centres “for a number of years.” However, in preparation for the new legislation the company is in the process of equipping all of its centres with the necessary hand tools required to be able to replace and service the valves and sensors, including applying the recommended torque settings to ensure that the valve and sensor do not become accidentally damaged following tyre replacement.
The retailer is also running pilots with selected centres which already have full stocks of sensors and service kits available on-the-shelf. These centres are acting as so-called TPMS ‘champions’ in their areas, building up additional knowledge on the current TPMS variants in the market place.
“Our readiness for TPMS is aided by the fact that our primary retail and comprehensive centres (which accounts for approximately two thirds of our network) are already equipped with proven Bosch diagnostic equipment, which can be used to recognise and diagnose the majority of possible TPMS faults, as well as for reprogramming indirect TPMS sensors in the event a wheel and tyre assembly is moved between front and rear axle, or the left or right-side of a vehicle,” company representatives explained, adding: “In addition…we [have been] launching and delivering a detailed TPMS training module to centre managers and technicians across the network during June 2012.”
So are many TPMS-equipped vehicles visiting ATS Euromaster centres currently? Very few vehicles are currently fitted with the ‘direct’ system with most common vehicles seen in branches fitted with indirect TPMS.
As far as costs are concerned ATSE pointed out that it is difficult to quote average prices as different makes and models of car require varying specifications of TPMS sensors, valves and service kits. However, market sell-in prices for TPMS service kits typically range from £5 to £15, and replacement sensors from £50 to £150 dependent on the precise vehicle model.
Kwik-Fit Fleet sees TPMS as an opportunity to further expand its product portfolio. A pilot service involving 50 Kwik-Fit centres across the UK is currently being established. It is anticipated that the service will be rolled out nationwide later this year, serving the retail sector as well as the fleet market.
This is based on equipment that can read TPMS identification numbers and manually change the TPMS sensor number in the engine control unit. This enables centres to replace sensors, rotate and reposition wheels and switch winter to summer tyres and visa versa.
It is estimated that there are in the region of two million vehicles in the UK fitted with a form of TPMS. Typically cars fitted with run-flat tyres and prestige cars are equipped with the technology, although the Renault Laguna was the first high volume upper medium sector model to have TPMS as standard.
Kwik-Fit Fleet sales director Peter Lambert said: “Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems are an important vehicle safety aid. The fact they will become a standard feature on all new cars over the next two years means that it is essential that we are able to offer a service to customers that checks systems are working correctly and rectify those that are not.
“A properly serviced TPMS system provides peace of mind in terms of road safety and many further benefits to drivers, notably in terms of improved fuel economy and tyre life knowing that a tyre is correctly inflated in line with manufacturer recommendations.
“However, technology requires maintenance and TPMS systems will require checks and service support during the life of the vehicles. The technology is very sophisticated and if a dashboard warning light appears – either the low pressure warning icon or system failure warning icon – drivers have a duty and responsibility to act and not to ignore the warning.”
Replacement sensors can vary from £50-£200 depending on make and model.
National Tyres & Autocare
National Tyres reports that it is enabling all branches and mobile units to cover both direct and indirect TPMS. This process is expected to be completed by the end of November 2012.
National representatives concur that sensor valves are expensive to replace prematurely and are vulnerable to corrosion and damage. For example, a Renault main dealer charges around £145 to replace one sensor valve and relearn the ECU on a Laguna. High prices at vehicle main dealers provide tyre specialists with the opportunity to compete with business. National reports that it will offer the same service for around £110.
In addition National says its will offer sensor servicing (fitting a new sleeve nut, rubber grommet, washer, nickel plated valve core and TPMS rubber valve cap) for £5 – £6 which is comparable to the £3.70 currently charged for a new snap in valve.
The only company addressing the supply chain issues related to TPMS, Nationals answers point out that sensor valves will be supplied next day by the company’s first line supplier and ‘within the hour’ by second line suppliers as they do now with brakes, for example. Sensor valves expected to have sell out prices ranging from £50 to £150 depending on type of valve, plus where required, an ECU relearn charge of £30.
As has already been mentioned, National is less optimistic about the life of sensors. In theory, it was thought sensor valve batteries would last up to 7 years. However the reality, based on the USA experience, says National, is that many fail prematurely due to corrosion or damage, or high mileage. Therefore 4-5 years life is said to be the norm.
National will be running TPMS training sessions through September, October and November for every branch and mobile unit.