Weight saving measures by auto makers includes ditching spare tire

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Spare tire

A growing number of car makers are ditching spare tires as part of weight-saving measures across the auto industry. Photo Credit: Kurt Nordstrom/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY

Car companies are trying to make lighter cars these days to boost fuel economy and a very easy way to do is to not equip it with a spare tire. As scary as it sounds, a growing number of car companies aren’t handing out the free donuts anymore.

GM, others not selling spares

In 2011, according to Reuters, a number of car makers stopped installing spare tires in new cars to reduce weight, thereby improving fuel economy. Extra weight means engines have to work harder getting from Point A to Point B and thus, use more fuel.

General Motors was one of the first car makers reported to ditch spares. BMW, according to AutoGuide, isn’t issuing spares anymore, instead selling their cars with run-flat tires. Hyundai, according to the Los Angeles Times, stopped putting a spare as standard in the Elantra in 2011 and Hyundai’s other brand, Kia, discontinued the spare for the 2012 model Optima. The 2012 Buick Regal GS and the Regal and LaCrosse hybrids will also lack a spare. Volvo is also omitting spare tires on some models, according to CBS Denver.

All told, 20 percent of new cars sold in the first 10 months of 2011 didn’t come with a spare, according to Reuters.

It works

The reason car makers are apt to lose the spares in favor of patch kits and in-car air compressors is that the numbers are right. In other words, potential fuel savings combined with the improved fuel economy of reduced weight make a compelling argument against spare tires. Full-size trucks and SUVs, though, are not affected as a full-size spare is basically mandatory.

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According to USA Today, flat fix kits weigh around 6 pounds, compared to a tire, jack and wrench kit that weighs upward of 30 pounds with a temporary “donut” spare tire and 50 pounds with a full-size spare. Every 10 percent reduction in weight is generally thought to yield up to 7 percent better fuel economy; an improvement of 1 mile per gallon can save upward of $100 per year in gas.

Furthermore, General Motors found in a survey that most drivers get a flat every 30,000 to 40,000 miles, if at all. Michelin found that one-third of respondents reported going 10 or more years without a flat tire and two-thirds of those that reported having flats had the air leak out in their driveway.

Just a part of the strategy

According to AutoGuide, a number of strategies are being employed to increase efficiency, such as turbocharged small-displacement engines, along with weight-saving measures. For instance, part and parcel to Mazda’s “SkyActiv” design is to shave upward of 200 pounds from any given vehicle using lighter materials and other techniques. Hyundai, having its own proprietary steel plants, is creating high-strength, lower-weight steel alloys that reduce weight by hundreds of pounds.

Brands like Audi and Jaguar are using aluminum chassis structures for the same reason; similar strength, much less weight. Ditching spare tires is only one avenue that is being explored.

Sources

AutoGuide

USA Today

Reuters

Los Angeles Times: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/20/business/la-fi-autos-spare-tires-20110620

CBS Denver: http://denver.cbslocal.com/2012/03/30/spare-tires-no-longer-standard-equipment-on-new-cars/

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