10 Years in, TPMS Confusion Still Exists Among Consumers – UnderhoodService

10 Years in, TPMS Confusion Still Exists Among Consumers

It's now been 10 years since government notices were first posted, as well as four model years after vehicles coming off assembly lines were mandated to be equipped with TPMS. But one in three motorists still doesn't have any idea what the small tire icon that lights up near a car's odometer is indicating.

By Skip Scherer  

Schrader's TPMSMadeEasy.com provides dealers with interactive training, how-to videos and downloads of in-depth technical bulletins and market-based reports.Ever throw a party that took almost eight years to organize, but one-third of the invited guests never bothered to show up? Maybe it was the wording of the invitation.

The cumbersome title “U.S. Tran­s­portation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act” probably didn’t help to capture the imagination of the general public when passed in 2000. Eight years later, full implementation of one of the TREAD Act’s major components – the one that focuses on tire pressure warning systems – wasn’t enough to get all vehicle owners and drivers on board.

It’s now been 10 years since government notices were first posted, as well as four model years after vehicles coming off assembly lines were mandated to be equipped with TPMS. But one in three motorists still doesn’t have any idea what the small tire icon that lights up near a car’s odometer is indicating.

In fact, almost half of today’s drivers don’t know that the indicator light is a cross-cut view of a tire and its tread, according to Carl Wacker, vice president of global OE sales and marketing for Virginia-bas­ed Schrader International. “Two years into full TPMS compliance, there are still many questions about the warning light among drivers,” he said.

Schrader, founded in 1844, manufactured the first pneumatic tire valve and is a producer, supplier and marketer of pressure monitoring systems, components and tools to automobile manufacturers and the automotive aftermarket service and repair industry.

“If a car operator doesn’t know the icon is a tire, he or she won’t know that an illuminated warning light means one or more of the vehicle’s tires is 25% below a manufacturer’s recommended pressure setting,” said Wacker. “The driver is at risk of becoming another statistic.”

Schrader wants everyone to come to the party, and with 10-15 million new vehicles equipped with TPMS being sold in U.S. markets annually, it’s potentially a big bash – pun in­tended. Wacker explained that his company is taking the lead to add­ress consumer awareness. “An educated consumer can help advance our industry’s cause,” he said, “but we can’t focus solely on the end user.”

Tire dealers also are trying to determine how to integrate TPMS service into their daily business routine. “They’re wrestling with the basic questions of whether to offer maintenance and repairs, and at what level,” said Wacker. “They also want to know how to talk to consumers about the technology.”

Three-Pronged Approach
To educate motorists and tire dealers, along with vehicle manufacturers, about TPMS, Schrader has launched a triple-tiered interactive website that addresses the specific needs of each player in the equation: TPMSMadeSimple.com for drivers; TPMSMadeEasy.com for tire dealers; and TPMSMadeRight.com for OEMs.

TPMSMadeSimple.com is a comprehensive site that helps drivers understand the purpose and benefits of TPMS, according to Wacker. He said that since drivers sometimes take for granted the four small patches of rubber that keep their cars from spinning off the road, web pages spell out safety, economic and environmental benefits of proper tire pressure and what to do when the alert icon illuminates.

He outlined key features of the consumer-targeted site, including “Experts Talk,” featuring commentary and advice from automobile safety experts and environmental journalists, a fuel savings calculator that determines how much fuel can be saved with properly inflated tires, a forum for drivers to post questions and submit real-life TPMS experiences, and information about the TREAD Act. Drivers also learn to take specific steps from the site if the TPMS light begins to glow on the dashboard.

For tire dealers, TPMSMade-Easy.com provides information to help make sound decisions about the TPMS part of their business. The site also conducts interactive training to aid in understanding high-tech TPMS components, offers how-to videos that include precision torque procedures, and allows downloads of in-depth technical bulletins and market-based reports. Posted interviews with Tire Industry Association certified trainers also can help tire technicians improve service.

In addition, Schrader’s site for tire dealers offers point-of-sale consumer education material to help reduce confusion about TPMS and boost customer confidence and return business. Case studies by aftermarket retailers review their decisions to provide TPMS service, including lessons learned. Jackie Glassman, former chief counsel and acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Sean McKinnon, director of automotive training development for TIA, discuss the implementation and impact of TPMS.

“When designing and constructing the tire dealer website, Schrader firmly believed it was important to engage diverse voices that provided information, tools and resources needed for sound business decisions,” Wacker said. “For example, TIA’s McKinnon is featured on the site and reinforces the importance of customer communication.”

The OEM site is filled with technical content, industry reports and side-by-side component comparisons.

Wacker added that the three-tiered educational website reinforces Schrader’s belief that it’s critical for everyone to understand TPMS. “Lives depend on it,” he said, “and the company has taken the ball to raise awareness as a public service.”

Schrader also has taken steps to streamline and simplify the TPMS industry. Currently, there are more than 100 variations of tire pressure sensors, and the number grows with each new model year. It creates confusion in the tire service industry and requires a large investment in inventory and tools.

This fall, Schrader rolled out its long-awaited EZ-sensor – the first programmable tire pressure monitoring sensor. Designed to replace 90% of TPMS sensors currently stocked by tire dealers, according to Gordon Hoffman, Schrader’s director of marketing, EZ-sensor can dramatically reduce inventory costs. “It’s a huge step toward simplifying the complex TPMS world and opening a clear path toward higher profits with smaller initial investments.

“We have introduced a flexible system that simplifies the sensor replacement process to avoid lost sales for tire dealers,” said Hoffman. He explained that the new product is based on Schrader’s existing snap-in sensor design and the programming software is available for his company’s AirWare 21230 and the Bartec Tech400 TPMS tools.

One year after EZ-sensor was first announced at the 2009 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Schrader intends to roll into the 2010 SEMA Show and display a vehicle fully equipped with the new sensors. Living up to its promise to educate consumers, a two-week EZ-sensor tour of the vehicle across the nation includes planned stops near Washington, D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, Memphis, Denver and other major midwest and Southwest cities.

During the EZ-sensor stops, Schrader will reach out to local media and the company’s customers to provide sensor replacement demonstrations, along with product and tool displays.

To contact Gordon Hoffman, call 303-809-9939.

Article courtesy of TIRE REVIEW magazine.

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