If I told you right now to go out and buy a new set of Firestone tyres for your car, I bet you wouldn't. Even if I staked my journalistic reputation on Firestone's new Destination HP tyre being the absolute best possible set of rubber for your SUV or crossover (and that's certainly what Firestone itself is hoping I'll say) I still bet you wouldn't.
You’d get down to the tyre fitters’, peruse the racks of outwardly identical black rubber and then do what you always do, what everyone basically always does: choose the cheapest tyres with a brand name you’ve heard of at the lower end of the price bracket.
It’s just the way we buy tyres.
Firestone is nonetheless having another go at cracking the Irish tyre market, having been absent from these shores for some time now. Firestone is re-launching in Europe with the ambition of becoming the rubber of choice for those needing replacement tyres for their SUV or crossover. Of course, Firestone will also be offering a range of tyres to suit all sorts of other cars, from hot hatches to vans, but perhaps starting by targeting the hordes of Qashqai, Yeti, Sportage and ix35 owners is no bad tactic.
Indeed, it was aboard a Kia Sportage that Firestone demonstrated the abilities of its new Destination HP tyre to us. Our Sportage swept through a wet slalom and braking test with ease, and never once paused for thought or loss of traction on a dusty, rocky off-road course. The tyres also seemed exceptionally quiet on motorway runs, leaking precious little noise up into the cabin space.
Is there any point in me telling you that? Did you read the preceding paragraph and come away thinking that your tyres are anything other than black, round and expensive to replace? It has become a cliche that the more we bang the drum for ever-improving tyre technology (and the tech that goes into making a modern tyre is truly staggering, as the makers try to find a balance between wet and dry grip, noise and low rolling resistance to save fuel) the less attention is apparently paid to it.
Andy Dingley, Firestone's communications manager for North Europe, sees a reversal of that image, however. "I don't think, genuinely, that consumer just and only buy on price. They can't. If they did, the likes of Bridgestone and Firestone simply wouldn't exist. The secret to selling high-quality tyres is the reliance on the dealers and fitters. We have to get them to believe in our product so that when someone comes in for tyres, they can say, 'Look, here's a premium brand one for, say, €150 each. You don't need that. Then there's this cheap stuff. You don't want your family relying on that. But over here there's something reasonably priced, something that offers value, with a name you can trust. So it's not about offering the cheapest price, it's about offering the best value."