While the Internet has become a regular shopping tool for nearly two-thirds of new-vehicle buyers, few vehicle owners use the Internet when it comes time to buy replacement tires, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2003 Replacement Tire Buyer Behavior and Satisfaction Study(SM) released Oct. 13. The study finds that more than 60 percent of tire buyers access the Internet, but only 16 percent of those who access the Internet use it when they need to buy replacement tires. “The desire to discuss their needs with a tire salesperson and their intentions to buy from the same retailer are key reasons tire buyers do not use the Internet as a tire shopping tool today,” said Jeff Zupancic, director of the tire practice at J.D. Power and Associates. In addition to measuring consumer tire behavior, the study also examines customer retain sales satisfaction. Among tire retailers, Les Schwab Tire Centers ranks highest in tire retailer satisfaction for the fourth consecutive year based on its industry-leading scores in each of the four factors that drive replacement tire retailer satisfaction: retailer service, personnel, facility and product offering. The retail experience of more than 25 percent of Les Schwab customers is “substantially above expectations,” compared with only 15 percent for all tire buyers. “Les Schwab continues to dominate in fulfilling and exceeding customer expectations and enjoys a commanding 44 index-point lead over its nearest competitor,” Zupancic said. Following Les Schwab Tire Centers in tire retailer satisfaction are Discount Tire Co., Big O Tires, Goodyear Auto Centers, NTB and Price Club/Costco, respectively. The study also examines tire customer satisfaction among car/compact van and light-truck owners. Michelin once again ranks highest in both segments with industry-leading scores. Overall tire product satisfaction is calculated using a replacement tire satisfaction index (RTSI) that includes five factors: tire ride, durability, handling, traction and appearance. In both the car/compact van and light truck segments, Michelin demonstrates strong performance across all customer-driven measures that comprise the RTSI. “Michelin’s continued success in the J.D. Power and Associates tire studies is based on its ability to consistently deliver on those tire elements that are most important to vehicle owners,” Zupancic said. Following Michelin in the car/compact van vehicle segment are Toyo, Cooper, Dunlop, Goodyear and Bridgestone, respectively. Among light-truck owners, following the top-ranked Michelin brand are BFGoodrich, Cooper and Firestone, respectively. The 2003 Replacement Tire Buyer Behavior and Satisfaction Study is based on responses from nearly 7,900 vehicle owners in the United States who have recently purchased replacement tires for their vehicles. The study, now in its 12th year, provides an overall picture of replacement tire buyer behavior and customer satisfaction with the tire retailer purchase experience, as well as the replacement tire ownership experience. About J.D. Power and Associates Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is an ISO 9001-registered global marketing information services firm operating in business sectors including market research, forecasting, consulting, training and customer satisfaction. The firm’s quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. For more information, visit www.jdpa.com.