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