Popular Michelin Limo Tire Proves Hard To Find

Posted on August 3, 2011

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.

Gogel broke down the various costs of tire models as follows:

  • A Michelin Energy LX4 245/60/17 tire costs: $180.95, including labor; balancing is $10.95; valve, $3.95; disposal, $4; New Jersey tire tax, $1.50; sales tax, $14.10; TOTAL: $215.46 per tire.
  • A Yokohama Avid TRZ 225/60/17 costs $129.95, including labor, and with all above added charges and taxes, TOTALS $160.88.
  • The Michelin 225/60/17 tire costs $169.95, including labor; and with all related charges and taxes, TOTALS $202.25.

“For the stretches, it creates a lot of problems,” Gogel said. “The stretches are not high mileage vehicles, so I’m not sure how it will affect us. We’ve been really lucky in that we haven’t had cars sitting and waiting for a tire,” said Gogel, adding that the tire center includes an 18,000 square-foot warehouse.

Jay Glick, owner of and Ultimate Auto Sales in Morganville, N.J., said he is concerned about operators possibly running vehicles on thinning or bald tires given the worldwide shortage. “This is the only specialized tire with a weight rating for industry,” Glick said of the Energy LX4. “Will Michelin stop making it once the Town Car production stops on Aug. 31?”

Across the nation, Los Angeles operator Chris Hundley of Limousine Connection got the bad news this week from his tire dealer about the shortage of the Michelin Energy LX4. An e-mail exchange between Hundley and the Indiana-based tire supplier confirms that the Michelin 245 is unavailable, the 225 is increasing in price, and a 265 model tire would likely rub up against the fenders.

The tire dealer wrote to Hundley: “Finding replacements for the 245s will be tough. I have double-checked with Michelin just to be sure, and they have no plans to start production on this size anytime soon. I would recommend trying a 235/65/17 instead, and the only tire with the same load capacity as the original Michelin will be the Pirelli Scorpion Verde (black wall only) priced at $175 each. The only slight drawback is we have not tested the size on this vehicle, but with only 1/2 taller sidewall I believe they will fit just fine.”

Pirelli Scorpion Verde web page here.

In another e-mail, the tire dealer states of the 245: “Unfortunately there are no alternatives; out of the 17 brands we carry, Michelin is the only one that offers this size.”

Tire Rack’s explanation of load range index here.

[LCT is asking any operators with additional advice or insights on tire alternatives to please help out other operators by posting comments in the section attached to this e-news article].

— Martin Romjue, LCT editor

Related Topics: California operators, maintenance, New Jersey operators, tires and wheels, vehicle repairs

Comments ( 3 )
  • Jorge Zapata

     | about 4 years ago

    Needed new tires for my Town Car and couldn't find the Michelin Energy LX4 whitewall anywhere, they are discontinued. Could not find any whitewall tire, told by Discount Tire personnel that whitewall tires were a thing of the past. I finally tried looking on Pep Boys website and found a tire comprable to the Michilen tire, 50,000 mile with narrow whitewall for a fraction of the price. Bought four tires with road hazard and lifetime balance and rotate for approx 370.000, after online purchase discount and military discount. Really satisfied with the tire. Will be coming back for my next set of tires.

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