Gary Reed says he can now tell his customers what it is actually like to ride on some of the tires he sells at the Green-Uniontown Conrad’s retail store he manages.
Reed, 28, was among tire wholesalers and retailers invited to the Goodyear test track in Akron on Thursday for the second part of a two-day “ride and drive” comparison test pitting two new Goodyear tires against competitors.
This year’s demonstration, which Goodyear will be taking to other locations nationwide through the end of September, is intended to show off the new Eagle Sport All-Season tire for cars and the Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure tire for light trucks. Goodyear has been organizing ride-and-drive demonstrations for years, as have other tire makers.
Participants rode 2013 Audi A4 2.0 Quattro Tiptronic all-wheel-drive sedans fitted with the high performance Eagles and a competing Firestone tire and 2013 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 extended cab, short bed pickup trucks with the Kevlar-belted Wranglers and a comparable Michelin tire. Goodyear said the only difference between the vehicles were the tires.
“This is my first [ride and drive],” Reed said. “It’s very surprising the difference you feel in the two tires,” he said.
Reed said store sells Goodyear and other brands and that the ride and drive will help him with customers who seek advice on which tires they should buy. “Every customer that comes in for tires, we try to meet their needs,” he said.
The test drives are intended to help people focus on the tires, said Tara Foote, Goodyear brand manager for performance.
“It’s not like you can go to a dressing room and try them on,” she said. She described herself as a “left lane driver” and the typical consumer for the Eagle tire being demonstrated.
“Do you have a performance moment? Do you have an on-ramp moment? An off ramp moment?” she said. “I think that’s what consumers can relate to. I drive a Mercury Milan. ... Do I benefit from having performance tires on my car? Yes. Am I glad I’ve got them for those moments when I use them? Yes.”
The Eagle test-drive involved taking Audis on a wet and dry course with short turns, a long sweeping curve and a severe braking area. Drivers got three laps in an Audi with the Goodyear tire and then three laps on an Audi with the Firestones.
The Wrangler test-drive was set up as an on-road and off-road course. The four-door and four-wheel-drive pickup trucks were nowhere near as nimble or quick as the sporty Audis. The trucks were driven on pavement, including stretches to speed, slow and turn, and then on a dirt track that included short hills and sharp turns.
For the Eagle comparison, “we look at start-up traction, low-speed steering response, wetted cornering, if you will, to simulate an off-ramp, or wetted off-ramp,” said Nick Gullatta, development engineer and performance test driver. “We look at higher-speed response and then we’ll look at collision-avoidance limit braking, so that would be from 50 miles per hour to zero. We try to make it as realistic as we can and incorporate as much content as we can.”
The Wranger test involved getting the large pickup trucks to 25-30 miles right away then brake, take a sharp turn, accelerate, turn some more, do a hard stop and then go on the off-road course.
“So it is a handling course,” said Art Schmitt, lead instructor. “[At the start] we want to give them that little side bite, we want the body roll, we want that side load on the tire and then also we want them to brake right here and do that right turn. ...We’re actually trying to have something exciting and fun but actually feel the difference between the two products. That’s what we’re really trying to showcase.”
Rich Cochrun, store manager for Flynn’s Tire & Auto Service in Dover, said the demonstrations were well worth it.
“I think it’s a great selling tool because we actually experience [the tires],” Cochrun said.
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org.