2007.10.10 Something smelly about these tires

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

Automobiles may not be selling at record levels lately, but the aftermarket parts industry doesn’t seem to be lacking in weird ideas to try to separate those hanging on to their old vehicles from some of their money.

For instance, there’s the fake sunroof. Don’t want to spend several hundred dollars to have a sunroof installed, but still want to look like you did? For much less money, you can actually purchase a realistic-looking magnetic product simulating the top and frame of a sunroof. Center and stick it on your vehicle’s roof, and there you have it...instant sunroof. All the look of the real thing (from the outside), but none of the usefulness or dubious cachet of the genuine article.

Of course, I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do when you give someone a ride and they discover the deception. Perhaps you should take the money you saved and get your air conditioning fixed...or maybe just carry a cooler and bag of ice with you. If you’re going to be cheap, you might as well go all the way.

If you really are willing to spend serious money on your vehicle, perhaps you might want your tires to smell funny.  If so, it’s time for a set of KUMHOs. South Korea’s KUMHO Tire Company has just introduced what they claim is the world’s first fragrance or “aroma” tire, the ECSTA DX. I’m sure Goodyear, Firestone and the rest of the tire companies are letting the Koreans have that “honor.” The first fragrance made available in tire form is lavender.

The aroma is added to the tire in the manufacturing process by mixing lavender-scented oils with the rubber compound.  The scent is designed to last for the life of the tire.

The tire maker’s website says the aroma tire is “targeted at female consumers who drive such sedans as the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Subaru Outback, Chrysler Sebring and Ford Taurus.” And not minding their tires smelling like lavender would be a plus, too, I’d say.

Can’t you see Martha Stewart buying a set of these for her Volvo, or Hummer or whatever it is she drives? Unfortunately, if Martha would prefer potpourri-smelling rubber for her ride, it’s not available...yet. And why not chocolate-smelling tires? I’d think that would be a big seller, if anyone really would make a tire-buying decision based on the smell.

KUMHO currently makes the lavender tires in just three sizes (apparently to fit the aforementioned vehicles) and one scent, although jasmine, rosemary and orange-scented tires have been tested and could be marketed as demand dictates. The lavender version is available at tire retailers as close as Adrian, Bryan and Toledo. If anyone out there buys a set, please drop by the office sometime. I’d love to take a whiff.

But why is KUMHO limiting themselves to going after female customers exclusively? There’s a whole world of scents out there and some should be able to help the tire maker sell tires to males, too.   

How about a tire that smells like hamburger? Maybe KUMHO could make a cross-marketing deal with McDonald’s or Burger King. Wouldn’t a burger-smelling tire called Big Mac or The Whopper be a natural for a four-wheel-drive pickup?

Or how about tires that smell like beer? You know that would get the interest of Budweiser, Miller and Coors.

The problem with all of this is, I don’t understand the marketing proposition of aromatic tires in the first place. When is the last time you smelled your tires, anyway? Unless you are checking the air pressure, or are hanging around a tire store or car race, you probably never notice a tire’s smell no matter if it’s rubber, lavender, rosemary, chocolate or whatever.

I don’t think it makes much difference how the tire smells. If an aroma is that important, wouldn’t it be smarter to have it inside the car? Aromatic seat covers make a lot more sense to me.

If KUMHO really wants to add something to its product, how about an aroma that would stop the neighborhood dogs from urinating on your tires? Now there’s an innovation I’d be happy to consider buying. How about it, KUMHO?

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