It is highly likely that the public unveiling of Goodyear’s new ultra high-performance Eagle tire is going to have a lot of people smiling the next 10 weeks or so.
Admittedly, the smiles will be mostly on the faces of Goodyear tire dealers and any others who participate in a traveling road show providing hands-on demonstrations of the new Eagle F1 all-season tire against its intended competition.
The hands-on involves getting behind the wheel of a couple of new, $36,000 BMW 328i sport sedans or perhaps an all-wheel-drive Audi A4.
And then being encouraged to drive said vehicles as fast as they can go on a closed-loop road course intended to show how the different tires perform under wet and dry conditions. Goodyear said the only differences between the vehicles are the tires — one BMW has the new Eagle while the other BMW has a competitor. Goodyear said otherwise, everything else is equal.
“We want people to be able to feel the [tire] difference,” said Mike Markoff, Goodyear category planning manager, performance tires.
Goodyear brought Northeast Ohio tire dealers to its Akron test track this week as part of the demonstration. The non-?adrenaline rush part of the program involves spending training time in an air-conditioned mobile classroom rig pulled by a truck tractor.
The new Eagle ride-and-drive got an “advance launch” with the automotive press in Seattle; the road show next goes to Toronto before moving to other North American sites and ending in September.
Goodyear has been putting on this kind of demonstration for years; competitors do the same for their tires. This year’s Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric event features the latest refinements from the Akron tire maker.
“They can tell a customer, ‘Hey, I drove on it. I can tell you what it does,’ ” said Jim Davis, Goodyear spokesman.
Probably no one in real life will drive a car as hard in public as the dealers will on the demonstration courses. That’s OK with Goodyear. The idea is to show how the new four-season Eagle — built in Goodyear’s Lawton, Okla., and Fayetteville, N.C., factories — performs under extreme conditions.
Keep in mind that Eagle is Goodyear’s high-performance brand — NASCAR race cars roar around tracks on made-in-Akron Eagle race tires.
“The [public] market is really moving toward performance tires,” Markoff said. “Even?minivans have performance tires.”
The ultra high-performance segment used to be a niche but it is “growing, growing, growing,” Markoff said.
This Eagle is called “Asymmetric” because as you look at the tread head on, it is not a mirror image, Markoff said. The outside portion of the tire is intended to help with dry cornering while the “inside” exterior was designed to help with wet and snow traction, he said. The tire also incorporates what Goodyear calls “TredLock” technology designed to improve grip as well as specialized rubber compounds to enhance all-year use.
“It wasn’t aesthetically designed. It was designed to work. We like the looks, though,” Markoff said.
Retailers are getting the first 11 sizes of these particular Eagles now; eventually 36 sizes will be offered. The new Eagle is not expected to be a huge seller similar to the Goodyear Assurance line, Davis said. Eagle retail prices start at $140 per tire and can reach $300.
“It should be a good seller in the ultra high-performance market,” Davis said. “In terms of the Eagle line, it will be a good seller.”
For now, the new Eagle F1 is replacement only but will be offered as an original equipment tire at some point, Markoff said.
For an idea of what it’s like to drive a BMW 328i shod with the new Eagles, Goodyear has a video called Control Freak on YouTube.
The dealer demonstrations won’t get that wild.
In truth, Goodyear said it’s unlikely anyone will be able to exceed 50 mph on the fastest part of the courses. But the smiles might be there all the same.
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org.