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Will BMW move from run-flat tires to Michelin airless tweels?

No other automaker is as brave as BMW when it comes to trying new tire and wheel technology. A big move by Michelin has us wondering.

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Michelin today made a very quiet announcement that caught our attention because we think it could be linked to BMW. The announcement by Michelin was about its “tweel.” This is a combination wheel and tire that does not use any air and has proven to be incredibly durable (see video). Like all innovations, the tweel will need to be adopted by an automaker – a brave one. One who is not afraid to try new tire and wheel technologies. No other automaker has been as brave as BMW when it comes to tires.

How are the Michelin press release and BMW ‘s bravery linked in my mind? Simple. BMW’s largest automotive manufacturing site on Earth is in Spartanburg South Carolina. BMW makes all of its X-series vehicles there. The X3 is one of BMW’s most popular vehicles, and X variants are now part of every BMW car line. Michelin just announced that it will open its new tire plant, exclusively dedicated to tweel production in Piedmont, South Carolina this month.

Rt. 85 connects Piedmont and Spartanburg. It is a straight shot and only about a 40-minute drive from one location to the other. Coincidence? Perhaps, but consider that the marketing so far for the tweel has mostly focused on durability and the tweel’s excellent resistance to damage. If Michelin and BMW are planning to market the tweel on some models, of course, it only makes sense that the tweel first be applied to sport utility vehicles.

BMW Run-Flat Tires
BMW is the first, and really the only, major automaker to embrace run-flat tires. This has earned the company respect, even from those, like this writer, who do not prefer BMW run-flat tires. BMW’s reasons for using the run-flats are logical. BMW has also broken new ground by using very unusual tires on its newest production vehicle, the i3 electric car. Those tires are extremely tall and narrow and inflated to higher than typical pressures. This allows the vehicle to roll more efficiently, and with EVs, every efficiency needs to be maximized. Although this challenges BMW dealerships to have unique inventory, it also drives replacement and maintenance sales for the dealership.

Michelin could have plopped its newest manufacturing location anywhere in North America. Due to NAFTA, there is no reason a location in Mexico or Canada could not have been chosen. The new plant is as close as practical to BMW’s largest production facility on the globe. Do you think it is a coincidence?

Related Information:
We put BMW run-flat tires to the test and give them a thumbs-down
Bridgestone introduces airless tires
The 2014 BMW 228i is the only real BMW left

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fdkgk[g[ (not verified)    November 15, 2014 - 10:24PM

I hope so! About time something innovative happens in the automotive world. Outside of hybrids, etc. which are really just reworked standard automobiles - automobiles that honestly haven't changed in decades. Same doors, windows, almost the same mpg - my old 1985 got the same mpg as today's camry. Where is the innovation? Every year a camcorder gets lighter and the battery lasts longer. All that's changed about a car is features like stereos and tech and the styling of the body. Hardly innovative. So I would welcome something truly new and different in the automotive landscape. I'll tell you the problem though, these tweels better not cost much more than regular wheels. Being different isn't good enough to encourage adoption. The problem today is everything new is vastly more expensive, that wasn't always the case either. Take today's wipers. We went from all steel wipers for $7.99 to blades of plastic for $21.99. Easier to produce and double or triple the price - brilliant. So I can't wait for these tires, but I am not convinced they will become anything more than a novelty unless they price them aggressively. I also can't wait to see how snow and ice affects them, should be interesting!

Dom (not verified)    November 16, 2014 - 12:58PM

Nothing innovative happened???
Really? Under which rock have you been living?

You regard the Tesla Model S not to be an innovation?
- Completely new way of controlling the car's onboard systems.
- Pure Electric with 265 Miles of range. Super fast charging along the way.
- New maintenance concept: hardly needs servicing, resulting in extremely low running costs.

Dude, the Model S is not a reworked standard automobile. It's "car driving 2.0". It's the first car of a new generation.

John (not verified)    November 17, 2014 - 1:38PM

You state that Michelin could have chosen anywhere to put this new plant, and presume that this in some way means something because it's 40 minutes from BMW. However, you ignore the fact that it's even closer to several other Michelin factories, its North America R&D facility and its North American headquarters, which by the way were all present before BMW ever built its manufacturing presence in SC. So given this, it's much more likely that the site was chosen due to its proximity to their core base (located in the same county) than their proximity to BMW.