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 2001 Replacement Tire and Retailer Customer Satisfaction Study(SM) released Aug. 6. In addition, the study includes customer satisfaction rankings among passenger-vehicle and light-truck owners for best tire retailer. For the second consecutive year this national survey recognizes the Pacific Northwest's Les Schwab Tire Centers as highest in tire retailer satisfaction. In the 10th year of this study, Michelin has ranked highest in customer satisfaction for its replacement tires among light-truck owners for seven consecutive years and among passenger-vehicle owners for the past three 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 customer-driven measures that comprise the Replacement Tire Satisfaction Index: situational performance (e.g., fast start traction, handling responsiveness, etc.), long-term performance (e.g., reliability/dependability, wearability, etc.), design and product quality, according to Jeff Zupancic, director of the tire practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "Michelin maintains its market-leading replacement tire satisfaction position by best meeting the needs and expectations of its customers," Zupancic said. While buyers of other brands are more sensitive to tire price, Michelin tire buyers are more likely to mention reliability, durability, and tire handling and performance as key reasons for their purchase, with less emphasis on price, according to Zupancic. "Michelin continues to successfully differentiate itself from competitors by delivering on the high-impact situational performance and long-term performance factors," Zupancic said. Following Michelin in the passenger-vehicle category are: Toyo; Pirelli and Uniroyal (in a tie); Cooper; and Goodyear respectively. Tire brands performing at or below industry average, in alphabetical order, include: BFGoodrich; Bridgestone; Douglas; Dunlop; Firestone; General; Kelly; and Sears. Among light-truck owners, BFGoodrich follows Michelin, with Cooper and Goodyear ranking third in a tie. The remaining brands performing at or below industry, in alphabetical order, are Firestone, General and Uniroyal. Among tire retailers, one indication of the strength of Les Schwab's performance is that one-half of their customers on average indicated they are "delighted" -- a 10 on a 10-point scale, across the 15 measures that are included in the study. Comparatively, only one-third of all tire customers gave their retailer the highest rating possible. "Les Schwab continues to delight its customers and they are rewarded with the highest customer loyalty," Zupancic said. Seven out of 10 customers indicate they will definitely consider buying tires from that company for their next tire purchase. "Les Schwab's ability to consistently deliver on the personnel and service factors, the largest contributing customer-driven factors to retailer satisfaction, fuels their leading performance and their ability to retain customers," Zupancic said. "Generally, it is less expensive to retain current customers than to conquest new customers from competitors. With concentrated efforts on improving satisfaction a retailer can improve customer intention." Following Les Schwab Tire Centers in retailer satisfaction are Discount Tire Company, Big O Tires and Goodyear Auto Centers, respectively. Finishing at or below industry average in tire retailer satisfaction, in alphabetical order, are: Firestone Car Care; NTB; Pep Boys; Price Club/Costco; Sam's Club; Sears Auto Center; and Wal-Mart. The study found that competitive tire price is foundational in tire retailing. While nearly one-quarter of tire buyers are most impacted by price, the remaining three-quarters need to be drawn in by other considerations in conjunction with a competitive price, such as personnel and service, according to Zupancic. "Those retailers who can deliver on the high-impact personnel and service factors will carve themselves a niche in the fiercely competitive replacement tire marketplace, much like Les Schwab has done," Zupancic said. The Replacement Tire and Retailer Customer Satisfaction Study is independently funded by J.D. Power and Associates and is based on responses from more than 9,500 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.