Are Spare Tires Going the Way of the Dodo?

By Colin Bird  on June 19, 2011

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Under increased pressure to produce more fuel-efficient cars — and do so profitably — automakers are starting to ditch the extra weight, namely the spare tire, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Automakers like Hyundai, General Motors and BMW are at the forefront of this movement. Chevrolet is one of the most aggressive brands to scuttle the spare, says the L.A. Times. The automaker typically replaces the spare with a tire inflation kit and sealant package. Automakers like BMW have ridded themselves of spares by offering run-flat tires.

Going with inflator-type kits has saved automakers like Hyundai a reported $22 a vehicle or about $4.4 million on the 200,000 Elantras the automaker plans to sell this year. Chevrolet says that ditching the spare saves about 26 pounds of extra weight in the Cruze, allowing the automaker to improve fuel economy.  Because the EPA rounds its fuel-economy numbers, this could help improve a model’s fuel economy by 1 mpg. Spare tires are not federally mandated because they are not considered an essential safety feature.

While getting rid of spares is a great move for car companies, car buyers are mostly ambivalent about the move, according to the L.A. Times. Technological improvements, such as tire pressure monitoring systems, and increased availability of road-side assistance (standard on Hyundais and Chevys) means getting a flat happens less often and is less burdensome when it occurs.

Still, some car customers say they weren’t informed that the new car they bought didn’t have a spare, which can be something of an unpleasant surprise if a blowout occurs. Tire inflator kits only work on small punctures for short distances; major tire damage cannot be fixed with one of these kits.

Unless there’s an outright revolt from consumers, expect spare tires to slowly disappear from more car trunks as automakers try to meet new federally mandated fuel standards.

Automakers sell more cars without spare tires (Los Angeles Times)



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