Because the U.S. government is seeking more "aggressive fuel economy targets," and because motorists are increasingly concerned about gas prices, some car manufactures, chief among them General Motors, think they've found the answer: replace spare tires with inflator kits.
You read that right. Here's the thinking: if manufacturers remove the spare tire and its tools, the car will be 25 pounds lighter and therefore more fuel-efficient.
However, industry analysts estimate that losing 25 pounds worth of spare tire and tools saves less than 1 mpg.
So why in the world would manufactures replace the spare with an inflator kit that is totally incapable of dealing with large cuts or a damaged sidewall?
It’s all part of a larger strategy that responds to the Obama administration’s plan to double average fuel efficiency requirements to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, reports Reuters.
"For customers who want an extra wheel, they can get a compact spare as an option. That's the way we try to package it," said Dave Cowger, group manager of tire engineering at General Motors.
But at what extra cost?
"We'll still offer one as long as the customer expects it," said Vince Muniga, a spokesman for truck-heavy Chrysler.
And here is part of the problem: as recently as a few years ago, almost every car had a spare tire. It's come to be an expected feature. Furthermore, dealerships aren't exactly slapping bright, neon stickers on their cars saying, "All New Spareless Model!"
The obvious problem that has sprung up from the spareless strategy is that dealers have been selling cars to customers who are unaware of the absence of a fifth wheel.
And it's not just a few models. It's a growing trend.
"20 percent of the 1.2 million sedans, compacts and other passenger cars sold in the United States this year through October came without spares as standard equipment," claims the online buyer research group Edmunds.com.
Was there any other reasoning behind the decision to ditch the spare?
"Automakers believe safety advancements have made the spare tire less crucial," reports Reuters.
For instance, GM claims that services such as OnStar remove motorists' worries about flats or being stranded by them.
And how did motorists react after they got a flat and found out they had no tools to deal with it?
John Nielsen, AAA's director of auto repair, cited anecdotal evidence of drivers who were "surprised" by the lack of a spare tire.
"The number of examples are small and would seem statistically insignificant, but the motorists that find out they don't have a spare in a moment of need consider the issue quite significant."
Really? Wouldn't have guessed.
Car manufacturers including Toyota, Nissan, Fiat, Chrysler, Hyundai, BMW, and Mercedes, have also replaced the spare with an inflator kit. However, the difference is that these manufacturers have not implemented the spareless strategy on as great level as GM.
A final thought: GM and other manufacturers are ditching spare tires to make the car lighter and therefore more "fuel efficient." As The Consumerist points out, brakes and headlight are also heavy. They might as well get rid of one of each.
(h/t The Consumerist)