New Radial Tyres
America was slow to take to New Radial Tyres
Of course in the early days of tyre development. So, the American tyre market was much slower to use the option of radials. Especially, on the new cars that they were then producing. Predominantly, the rest of the world including Europe and the UK were starting to use New Radial Tyres in much larger numbers.
Especially in France and Germany with Peugeot and Citroen leading the way. Of course, fitting Michelin tyres on most of their early Diane models.
However, things were very different across the pond in the USA. Indeed, they tended to go for the Bias-belted tyres, which complimented the type of suspensions. Consequently, that were used on most American cars. One of the problems they had with the New Radial Tyres was that the precise handling. Hence, showed up hidden weaknesses in the American cars.
Ford became the front runners in correcting the problems. Introducing “radial tuned” suspension on the new Thunderbird and Lincoln models. Modification enabled Ford to offer radials as an optional extra. Indeed, this started in 1967 a couple of years after I started my career in tyres here in the UK.
At first, the offers of radials were not taken up very well. Of course, by the public and one of the reasons was supply problems. Other major car makers followed fords footsteps. Though subsequently, they were supplying sub-standard radials. Therefore, suffering quality problems. Because radials were in their infancy in the United States.
Many of the manufacturers had to replace these sub-standard tyres
Firstly by importing Michelin tyres. Michelin had tyres that were tried and tested without any quality problems. Accordingly, one of the biggest players in tyre supplies in America was the department store, Sears. Sears controlled about 25% of the American tyre replacement market in those days. Later,that settled down to about 10%.Because their competitors had all started to sell New Radial Tyres. This ate into Sears tyre numbers. Sears had done a deal with the tyre makers Armstrong Rubber company which supplied Sears with their Bias belted products, but things certainly picked up when they started to introduce radial tyres, making them one of the top tyre retailers in the States.
Ford used the first radial tyres in America
In 1968 top Ford officials had a meeting with the Michelin company. Offering to fit their radials to the new Lincoln Continental as original equipment. Michelin would be the exclusive supplier of tyres for this new model. In general, the American public knew that radials lasted far longer than the Bias belted tyres that the were used to driving on, sometimes up to four times longer. It is widely reported that Ford paid $19.50 for the first Michelin, only $5 more per tyre than for bias belted, this was indeed a great deal for Ford and the first American cars rolled off the production lines on cheap Michelin Tyres UK.