COLMAR-BERG, Luxembourg - Most large European carmakers have started conducting tests of a run-flat tire produced by Goodyear.
The 'extended mobility tire' allows a driver to drive for 80km at up to 80kph after a puncture. The tire can be repaired afterwards.
So far the tire has been fitted to two US niche performance cars, the 1997 Chevrolet Corvette and Plymouth Prowler.
Pierre Kummer, Goodyear director of tire technology for Europe, said several automakers in Europe are currently testing the tires.
Peter Blackford, Goodyear sales and marketing director for Europe, said the technology is an invention, not just an innovation.
'Fundamental inventions that use breakthrough technology provide an important lead on the competition, whereas it is easy to copy an innovation within a few months,' he said. 'We will progressively implement (the technology) throughout the entire product range.'
This summer, Goodyear will introduce on the aftermarket a range of run-flat tires. They will cost 15-20 percent more than conventional tires. Within the next year, tires for the vast majority of performance road cars and popular family models will be offered, said Phil Stanton, sales and marketing manager for consumer tires.
With run-flat tires, automakers can save the weight and space taken by the spare wheel. The tires are constructed from a rubber composite, with stiff material on the inside of the sidewall and plies and tensioning on the outside. These features prevent the deflated tire from collapsing in on itself.
Goodyear is working with Smart Tire Systems Inc., a Canadian manufacturer of low-pressure warning systems, on a fascia-mounted unit that will display the pressure in each tire.
The unit would receive radio signals from pressure sensors mounted on the wheel rims, and would cost around $160.
Goodyear spokesman Luc Scheer said such a system was necessary because otherwise, some drivers might not even notice when an extended mobility tire had lost pressure.