A major tyre manufacturer and a car company have settled a nationwide class-action lawsuit brought by consumers who claimed they were misled about Michelin-made “run-flat” tyres. The motorists also complained the tyres were expensive to replace and difficult to get repaired.
Michelin North America Inc. and American Honda Motor Co. Inc. announced the agreement in a two-page motion filed in federal court in Greenbelt on Monday. The terms of the deal were not disclosed and a final court hearing is scheduled for 14 January 2009.
In their 140-page complaint filed last May, the consumers claimed that Michelin, which made the tyres, and Honda, which outfitted certain cars and minivans with Michelin’s PAX Tire and Wheel Assembly System, failed to disclose that the tyres last half as long as radial tires. They also alleged the tyres are “prohibitively expensive to repair and replace” and only limited outlets stocked the PAX tyres or could carry out repairs.
The Honda Odyssey was the first minivan sold in North America to have the PAX system, which was supposed to allow drivers to travel farther — 125 miles — on a flat tyre, thus ruling out the need for a spare, according to the suit. The 2005-2007 models came with the system, along with certain Acura RL and Nissan Quest models.
The PAX system was discontinued last year, but more than 200,000 have been sold in Europe and the United States since it was introduced in 1998. And when it was fitted to the Touring edition of the 2005 Honda Odyssey minivan, Michelin predicted that the innovative wheel-tyre combination ‘could become as commonplace as fold-flat seats’.
However, the reality is that PAX has not been a great success for Michelin because of its cost and complexity. Only ATS, which is owned by Michelin, are able to work on the system, because they have the specialist equipment needed.
Some years ago Michelin recognised the short-fallings and developed their “ZP” (Zero Pressure) range of run flat tyres to compete with all the other leading manufacturers.
Michelin are now in an invidious position. It has invested millions of pounds along with ATS in a system which has been discontinued and superseded by other run-flat technology, including ZP. However, they cannot drop PAX completely because vehicles that depend on it are still in use.