Burnsville, Minnesota — Automakers’ decision to eliminate the spare tire may leave more than 30 million drivers vulnerable at the roadside, according to new research from AAA.
Tire inflator kits, a high-cost alternative for consumers, have replaced the spare tire in millions of vehicles over the last 10 model years and, due to their limited functionality, cannot provide even a temporary fix for many common tire-related problems. AAA is calling on automakers to put consumer interests first and halt the elimination of the spare tire.
John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair says that flat tires are not a disappearing problem, but spare tires are. He says that AAA responds to more than four million calls for flat tire assistance annually and, despite advances in vehicle technology, he says they have not seen a decline in tire-related calls over the last five years.
Along with run-flat tires, tire inflator kits have replaced spare tires on 29 million vehicles in the last 10 model years, steadily increasing from five percent of 2006 model year vehicles to more than one-in-three 2015 model year vehicles (36 percent) sold, according to AAA data. While AAA says each four-pound kit eliminates approximately 30 pounds of weight, resulting in minimal savings in fuel consumption, they say the replacement cost is high. With some kits costing up to $300 per use, AAA says a tire inflator kit can cost consumers up to 10 times more than a simple tire repair and has a shelf life of only four to eight years.