Mini tyre decision falls flat
Much-criticised run-flat tyres could be running out of puff, writes KEITH DIDHAM in Germany
THE future of controversial run-flat tyres has been placed under a cloud of doubt, as one of their biggest users changes back to conventional tyres on some of its models.
Later this year BMW will switch to normal tyres on popular variants of its Mini for international markets.
For Australian Minis, the standard 15-inch wheel will continue to be fitted with a conventional tyre.
The larger 16-inch wheel, currently shod with run-flat rubber and selected by more than 90 per cent of buyers, will also change to a conventional tyre. Run-flat rubber will now be offered as a $200 option. The 17-inch wheel will remain with run-flats.
Models with conventional tyres will come with BMW’s mobility pack, consisting of an air compressor and glue kit to make temporary puncture repairs.
The move appears to be a cost-saving measure by Mini’s parent as the worldwide economic crisis hits home.
Sources within Mini in Germany say BMW, which has been promoting the virtues of runflats for years, has been disappointed that rival manufacturers Mercedes-Benz and Audi have not adopted the technology.
Their added volume would have reduced the production cost of the controversial tyre for the motoring industry.
Run-flats are essentially a tyre with stiffer sidewalls, which allow the car to be driven if the tyre is punctured. They have been widely criticised for their harsh and unforgiving ride, especially combined with sports suspension set-ups.
The lack of a spare wheel offers substantial weight savings and wins back boot space.
At this stage the switch back to conventional tyres has not affected BMW models sold in Australia, most of which use run-flat tyres.