12 December 2011

How ironic that, in the week the UK opts out of plans to tackle the euro debt crisis, the auto retail industry is struggling to get to grips with a new piece of EU legislation – eco-labels on tyres. As always with pan-European rules there is some merit in the concept; it’s the implementation that so often seems to go wrong.

Car makers are quick to adopt fuel efficient tyres when promoting and selling their eco-models. The downside may be increased tyre noise and longer wet braking distance. So labelling new tyres sounds like a good idea.

And, of course, if it just applied to replacement tyres then clearly there is merit in the customer having an informed choice – especially because the more fuel efficient tyre is also likely to be more expensive to buy.

But new cars come with new tyres factory-fitted and, quite frankly, the customer doesn’t have any choice in the matter (except over wheel sizes). So legislation to deliver comparative data at the point of sale is particularly pointless. Putting the information in a brochure, or on an order form, won’t help because there’s no guarantee that the car will turn up on those specific tyres.

There are still question marks about how the rules will be implemented in the UK and let’s hope that sense will prevail. The various trade bodies (ACEA, SMMT, RMI) and the tyre manufacturers need to get together with legislators to sort out a solution – the most obvious of which is that the label should not apply to new car factory-fit tyres.

The alternative is some kind of simplification of the process. There is a precedent: when pan-European fuel consumption figures were first made mandatory, carmakers had to test every trim level and every tyre combination. That was soon simplified to the ‘worst’ body style on the widest (or second widest in some cases) tyre combination.

It may mean that official fuel consumption figures have no relevance in real world driving conditions; but at least it gives customers a consistent, easy to understand comparison.

Rupert Saunders

Are you likely to be affected by the new tyre selling regulations? What’s your view on legislation from Brussels? Drop me a line at

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