NOTRE-DAME-DE-LA-MERCI, Quebec — When Group Michelin asked tire dealers and distributors what they wanted in the company's next winter tire, they said looks were everything.
The X-Ice Xi3, which debuted in 2012, was a very good tire — top ranked in its category with 4.5 out of 5 stars on TireRack.com — but they said it didn't look aggressive enough to sell in the showroom.
Though the focus group did say the new tire needed to maintain — and even improve upon — the performance of the X-Ice Xi3.
"Michelin listened to what they had to say and started with the look," Sabrina Garofalo, a marketing manager at Michelin North America (Canada) Inc., said. "Then they brought in all of the engineering to maximize the performance."
What Michelin designed in the X-Ice Snow is a tire that looks the part, performs well and should give buyers an extra season of use, the company said.
When Michelin started designing the X-Ice Snow, they conducted focus groups with tire distributors, retailers and end users to get feedback for how the company could build a more complete snow tire.
Better bite, especially in deep snow; less noise on the highway; improved grip on ice; a longer tread life; and a look that draws customers in were among the top requests.
Tire dealers said the tire needed to look more aggressive than its predecessor, the X-Ice Xi3. The reason, they said, was because the sales window for winter tires in North America is so short — around eight weeks — the tire needs to stand out if it's going to sell. Michelin did not disclose the price of the new tire, but indicated it will be slightly higher than that of the X-Ice Xi3.