As we reported in July, progress is being made at European and international levels towards deciding on a wet grip test for worn tyres. Michelin actively supports this development and claims that driving on tyres to the legal tread depth of 1.6mm can be completely safe. The tyre maker is therefore critical of a magazine test that suggests this isn’t the case at all.
The debate over how much tread depth is sufficient and recommendable has been going on for years. While some tyre makers and motoring groups support changing the legal minimum tread depth to 3mm as a move towards greater peace of mind, Michelin has been a vocal advocate of not only keeping 1.6mm the legal minimum but of actually using tyres right down to this tread depth. It is also one of a growing number of parties calling for legislation that informs consumers how tyres perform when worn. Earlier this month, Michelin shared the latest developments in the quest for ‘Long Lasting Performance’.
Michelin further re-affirmed its opposition to increasing minimum tyre tread depths (and of those that recommend changing tyres at 3mm) on 11 May when the company held a “The truth about worn tyres” demonstration at its ultra-modern Ladoux global research and development centre near Clermont-Ferrand in France. But what is the truth about tread depth? Tyres & Accessories spent a day experiencing some of the differences between tyres currently available in the European market and spoke with the Michelin senior vice president responsible for the firm’s whole-life tyre strategy, Bernard Delmas, in order to find out more.
WheelRight believes that plans to raise the minimum legal car tyre tread depth from 1.6mm to 3mm “are like moving the goalposts before the team has even run onto the pitch”. John Catling, CEO of the UK-based technology business thinks setting even higher standards of tread depth could be counter-productive as long as so few drivers continue to regularly check their tyres.
John Catling said: “According to the results of a live pilot study we conducted at Keele Services on the southbound M6 earlier this year, most women (55%) admitted to rarely checking their tyres. Their male counterparts did not score much better, with just 66% claiming to undertake monthly checks.
While some manufacturers lobby for tyres to be replaced at 3 or even 4 mm, Michelin maintains that the current legal limit of 1.6 mm is “perfectly suited” to modern motoring and has reaffirmed its opposition to a change in the legislation. Indeed, during the course of the Paris Motor Show, Michelin’s top executives will be making this argument with journalists, OEMs and of course the public.