Saturday, November 3, 2007

What Were They Thinking?

I'm sure some of you have already heard about this...since this product made an appearance at the automobile industry's SEMA (Specialty Equipment Manufacturer's Assoc. ) show -and- was announced back in January. But billboards have been popping up in the Detroit-area over the past few months, and I seriously thought they were a joke when I first saw them - ads for lavender-scented tires by Kumho ( And if you don't particularly love lavender, apparently the company is offering neroli (orange) and jasmine scents as well. Scented tires...who knew?

Although scented tires aren't the first thing I think of when I dream about upgrades to my car, I did have some curiousity about the product. My first thought was "is the scent good for the environment?" Then I had a humorous image of a person kneeling down in the parking lot taking a big whiff of the wheels of the car next to them (This behavior definitely does not seem like a trend that would catch on). And unless you're spending a lot of time in your garage - outside your car - who's going to care what your car's tires smell like? I mean, you aren't exactly driving with your windows (or convertible top) down, wind in the hair, hoping for a lavender-scented breeze, all the time. Especially not in Michigan where the warm weather season is short-lived. Of course, I'm not quite sure this is how the tires understanding is the scent is released when rubber comes off your tire. So do you only smell it when you slam on your brakes in a hard stop? My guess is most women won't be doing burnouts to fill their car with a lavender smell...

As proof these tires are actually available in stores, my friend Stacy just had her tires replaced and reported they had these in a glass case at a Bell Tire store. At $120-$140 a tire...a person could spend $500 pops outfitting their car. With that said...and knowing that women motorists tend to prefer cargo room and convenience to car gadgets (see studies like the one recently released by, I wonder how they're selling. Does this tire company think women (who they're targeting the product at) are idiots? As a woman, I personally feel like the compay is insulting my intelligence. Do they take me for a dizzy blonde whose only wants in a car are for it to be pretty and purple and smell like lavender (are we picturing Sugar Plum Fairies flying around in this dream too?)?

So although I give Kumho props for disruptive innovation, I wonder if they were thinking of (or sniffing) too many laundry detergent/fabric softeners when they came up with this. I mean, I could see a potential market for lavender-scented rubber floor mats. The technology definitely has the potential to be cool or desirable...just in another product form. So I guess the lesson learned here is make sure you have a clear understanding of your target customer before putting something out there on the market and heavily advertising it. Because right now, scented tires sound like a push versus pull strategy to me.
In case you wonder what Kumho's press release said, see below. And if anyone has a copy of their scented-tire market research report...I'd love to see it.
Press Release
KUMHO Introduces World's First "Aroma Tire" For Select Passenger Vehicles
U.S. market will carry limited inventory of orange, lavender and jasmine scents

Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. — KUMHO Tire USA, announces the introduction of the world’s first fragrance automotive tire, the ECSTA DX. The project is the “fruition” of more than a year’s worth of research and development to deliver an alluring aroma tire that replaces the normal “black rubber” smell with heat-resistant oils in the scent of lavender, and in later versions, neroli (orange) or jasmine. Visitors to can find the nearest dealer and will ship them for installation.

According to Rick Brennan, Brand Director for KUMHO, the company is selling the DX aroma tire to help build brand awareness and highlight KUMHO’s tire technology expertise in the highly competitive automotive marketplace. The tire is targeted at female consumers who drive such sedans as the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Subaru Outback, Chrysler Sebring and Ford Taurus.

In addition to a unique aroma, the ECSTA DX is engineered to deliver low noise levels and ride characteristics on par with the leading tire brands. Ride comfort is maintained throughout the life of the tire through the use of tread elements designed to provide uniform linear stiffness. Optimized pitch sequence and variable pitch lengths help minimize noise, while a straight center rib provides high-speed stability.

The DX features four wide grooves that help evacuate water, while a silica compound improves all-weather performance and wet traction. High tensile steel belts and a jointless nylon cap ply also help improve noise, ride comfort and durability, while an undertread reduces unwanted heat buildup for consistent performance.

The ECSTA DX Aroma tire will be sold through starting in the first quarter of 2007 in three sizes: 205/60R16 (MSRP $119), 215/60R16 (MSRP $125) and 235/60R16 (MSRP $138). The tires can be delivered and affixed to passenger vehicles at a KUMHO tire dealer.


Established in 1960, KUMHO TIRE CO., INC., of Seoul, South Korea, had 2005 sales of $2.2 billion. KUMHO manufactures and distributes a complete line of tires for passenger cars, light trucks and heavy-duty trucks. KUMHO has manufacturing facilities in Korea and China and operates technical centers in Birmingham, England, and Akron, Ohio. For more information, visit the KUMHO TIRE USA Web site at

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