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E. HANOVER, N.J. & LOS ANGELES — Operators and tire dealers are dealing with a shortage of the only weight-rated tire best suited to stretch Town Car limousines as operators consider viable alternative tires.
The Michelin Energy LX4 245/60/17 tire @ 2,200 lbs. weight capacity has been commonly used on Town Car stretch models since 2003.
Tire dealers report that particular tire is on back order with no immediate plans to resume production. The main reason for the worldwide shortage: A tariff increase that President Obama placed on Chinese produced tires two years ago, prompting tire makers to produce tires in quantities and types that make them the most money.
Given the economics of tire manufacturing, there also could be another reason looming: The scheduled production close-out of the Lincoln Town Car on Aug. 31. Ford Motor Co. is replacing it with the 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Car, which goes into production in early 2012. That means operators throughout the limousine industry who consistently bought tire models suited to Lincoln Town Car sedans and stretches will be transitioning to other stretch limousine and chauffeured vehicle models in the next few years.
The tire shortage does not necessarily affect the Lincoln Town Car Executive L, which can use 225/60/17 tires. However, prices for Michelin 225s have increased substantially this year.
A public relations manager at the Michelin North America in Greenville, S.C. has not yet returned calls from Friday and Monday seeking comment. [LCT will update this article pending information from Michelin].
At Gogel Tire Exchange in E. Hanover, N.J., co-owner Stu Gogel has a unique perspective on the limo tire shortage; he and his brother, Howard, co-own the tire center and a 100-vehicle plus transportation operation called My Limousine.
Gogel reports that My Limousine uses Yokohama tires on the sedans and the Michelin 245s on the stretches. As of Monday, the tire center only had three Michelin Energy LX4 245/60/17 tires in stock.
“We put on Yokohamas and are thrilled with them,” Gogel told LCT. “They [cost] substantially less and are doing phenomenal work for the limousine company. It’s a win-win situation.” The Michelin 245s are on nationwide and regional back order, he said.
The Yokahama tire model used on My Limousine’s Town Car sedans is the Avid TRZ, 225/60/17. Gogel advises against using it on a stretch limousine since it doesn’t have the recommended weight rating. So far, My Limousine’s six stretches are still rolling, with the company having stocked up on enough of the Michelin Energy tires. My Limousine also operates about 90 Town Car sedans, in addition to shuttles, SUVs, vans and mini-buses.