Michelin brand tires earn the highest customer satisfaction among both passenger-vehicle and light-truck owners replacing their tires, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2000 Replacement Tire and Retailer Customer Satisfaction Study(SM) released today. The best passenger-vehicle and light-truck tire retailer in customer satisfaction is Les Schwab Tire Centers. Michelin has ranked highest in customer satisfaction for its replacement tires among light-truck owners for six consecutive years and among passenger-vehicle owners for the past two years. (Passenger-vehicles include cars and compact vans; light-trucks include pickups, SUVs and full-size vans.) In both the passenger-vehicle and light-truck categories, Michelin demonstrates strong performance across virtually all the measures that comprise the Replaced Tire Satisfaction Index (RTSI). "When it comes to replacement tire product satisfaction, Michelin continues to best meet the needs and expectations of its customers," said Jeff Zupancic, senior manager of the tire practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "While tire price is a top consideration for all other tire brands, Michelin tire buyers are far less likely to focus on price. They are more likely to mention reliability, durability and tire handling and performance as key reasons for their purchase. Michelin has created a premium market position for itself by managing to deliver on the high-impact situational performance and long-term performance factors." Following Michelin in the passenger-vehicle category is Uniroyal, Kelly and Dunlop (in a tie), Bridgestone and Goodyear, respectively. Tire brands performing below average in alphabetical order include BFGoodrich, Cooper, Firestone, General and Sears. Among light-truck owners, BFGoodrich, Cooper and Goodyear tie for the second-place ranking. The remaining brands in alphabetical order are Firestone and Uniroyal. On the retail side, Les Schwab Tire Centers set the benchmark for tire retailer satisfaction, demonstrating strong performance across each of the five factors that comprise the Retailer Satisfaction Index (RSI): people, service, facility, reputation and product selection. "People and service are the largest contributing factors to retailer satisfaction, and Les Schwab is the only retailer with customers who listed high-quality service as a top reason for purchase," Zupancic said. "Tire retailers need to focus on customer satisfaction because there is definitely a positive relationship between retailer satisfaction and customer loyalty." Following Les Schwab Tire Centers is Big O Tires, Discount Tire Company, Price Club/Costco and Goodyear Auto Centers, respectively. Finishing below industry average in tire retailer satisfaction in alphabetical order are Firestone Car Care, NTB, Pep Boys, Sam’s Club, Sears Auto Center and Wal-Mart. With the exception of Michelin buyers, the majority of consumers indicate that the price of tires is a top reason for purchase consideration. Consequently, price is not a key differentiator for retailers in the marketplace. "Tire retailers won’t win over many customers on price alone because virtually all tire buyers expect a competitive price," Zupancic said. "The battle for consumer’s business will be fought and won on the people and service fronts." The study indicates that while most tire buyers have Internet access and spend an average of 7.8 hours per week online, very few use the Internet as part of their tire shopping and buying process. Tire shopping is still conducted in the more traditional way—buyers review advertisements, call and visit retailers in person. The Replacement Tire and Retailer Customer Satisfaction Study is independently funded by J.D. Power and Associates and is based on responses of more than 7,400 vehicle owners in the United States who have recently purchased replacement tires for their vehicles. The study provides an overall picture of customer satisfaction with replacement tires and the purchase and ownership experience. About J.D. Power and Associates Headquartered in Agoura Hills, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services firm operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, consulting, training and customer satisfaction. The firm’s quality and satisfaction measurements are based on actual responses from millions of consumers annually. J.D. Power and Associates can be accessed through the Internet at www.jdpa.com.