Tyre test: Knock-off v. premium

2013-07-17 11:11

If you’re in the market for new tyres you might have come across imported tyres that cost less than premium or even budget brands. Some have near identical tread patterns to premium tyres.

While good quality budget tyres are produced by premium manufacturers, these are less recognisable and are sold at a more affordable price.


Then there are budget tyres that are cheap to purchase but are sometimes knock-offs. It’s important to differentiate between good quality budget offerings and cheap tyres that while offered at a lower price are inferior quality.
So why should you buy premium or budget, when you can purchase these really cheap tyres?

Marketing executive of Tiger Wheel & Tyre, Joe du Plooy, said: “The difference between premium, budget and cheap tyres lies not in what you can see but in what you can’t. So while some of these cheap tyres may have the identical tread pattern to a premium or budget tyre, to reinforce the notion that the tyres are identical, they really aren’t.

“The differences essentially come down to the polymer of the rubber compounds that are used in the tyre and the complex design and construction elements that are not visible to the naked eye.
“Tyre manufacturers can easily copy a premium tyre’s tread pattern but without the benefit of the extensive research and development, testing and engineering that premium tyre brands invest in tyre construction, you can bet the cheap tyre’s performance is far from equivalent.

“The true test will always be a direct comparison between the two.”

Continental Tyres ran such a comparison using one of its premium tyres and a cheap tyre that had been artfully designed to appear identical.

Continental took the tyres to a test facility with a banked oval track in Hanover, Germany. It fitted each set of tyres, in turn, to the same vehicle and ran tests at 112.6 km/h to compare stopping distance, while a control system ensured a  1mm spread of water across the track surface at all times.
Each tyre was tested seven times for control purposes and stopping distance was measured by the vehicle’s GPS system. 

According to Continental: “The results were frankly alarming. On average, at the point where the Continental tyre had come to a complete stop, the vehicle with cheap tyres was still doing (49.9 km/h and took an extra 14m to stop.

"It’s a chilling fact that a pedestrian hit at that speed only has a 27% chance of survival.”
Du Plooy said: “While some low-cost brands are better than others, in general you can expect a vast difference in performance between premium, budget and cheap tyres.

“Premium tyres usually have shorter stopping distances and offer better lateral grip when cornering– all critical differences and sometimes life-saving factors that absolutely justify the extra expense.”

  • Paul Gertzen - 2013-07-17 11:51

    Although I'm sure knock off tyres are rubbish it's a bit difficult to trust the word of a premium brand who tested it, if the tyre was fine they'd still say its rubbish as it would eat at their rip off profits. These tests should be conducted instead by the AA or SABS or similar

      Ryan Brewster - 2013-07-17 15:47

      I hear what you say, but take into account that they would not be allowed to publish their findings without them being audited by an external auditor.

      Lance Elliott - 2014-04-26 13:07

      "Conti experts" were talking about "cheaper tyres" so could state anything they wish as no particular brand was being mentioned.

  • Kevin Jones - 2013-07-17 12:18

    Agreed so if you are going to open this can of worms then have the nuts to publish the results. There is no law against doing a factual comparison. This is like saying be careful of something. Publish the brand a stopping distances results especially for brands that are available in SA.

  • Kurt Balzun - 2013-07-17 12:46

    In December had to purchase new front tyres following deflated tyre damage. As the size is uncommon, none of the suppliers in our town had even one in the size required of any brand, be the premium of semi-budget type. Eventually found two NEW tyres at a local dealer/importer for R680 a piece, fitted and balanced ("bargain" of a lifetime...). There is not even a legible name on the sidewall, but it was brand new and I HAD to have tyres. First month operated fine. From 2nd month developed a serious wobble and uneven wear pattern. Changed back to "premium" at six weeks. Wobble gone. Once removed, it also felt as if the sidewall is much less rigid and felt substantially thinner than the "normal" ones. When initially inspecting the tyres prior to fitment they seemed fine to my untrained eye, but experience proved it to be not!

  • Gerhard Van Der Merwe - 2013-07-17 13:08

    When looking at the cost of Premium versus knock off tyres,why not fit the knock off brands for everyday commotion to work and back?..seeing that there has been an increase of more than 15% on the premium brands this year only...who can afford these brands anymore.The composites of the rubber has also changed,these days the mileage does not get close to what you would get 5 years ago. The price has gone up,but the durability has gone down!!

      LiveYourOwnLife - 2013-07-17 22:24

      Gerhard not to argue with you but I suggest you try Michelin as I never get less than 75 000km's on mine.

  • Ralph Long - 2013-07-17 13:51

    Name and shame please.

  • Neil Broers - 2013-07-17 14:26

    It is very easy to make research results suit your cause. At 70 MP/H (112.6 KM/H as stated) the stopping distance for the average car should be around 150m (excluding reaction time) in wet conditions. An additional stopping distance of 14m is an increase in stopping distance of less than 10%. Hardly "alarming".

  • Kerushen Reddy - 2013-07-17 16:34

    Agree with Paul Gertzen. Interestingly few years ago when I just started out I put a set of 204 /40/17s Corsa 2222 (Not Pirelli)on my car and the tyre was excellent interms or road noise, wet and dry handling and durability. And they cost me like R500 each. I replaced those tyres after 3 years and a lot of milage with Dunlop SP Sports which were Rubbish!

  • Ivan Van Der Merwe - 2013-07-17 17:33

    I have Chinese tires on my Volvo S40 and have had no problems with them in all conditions.

      Dexter Tangocci - 2013-07-17 22:00

      And I bet your next car is going to be a Geely or something equally as dreadful.

  • Fredster69 - 2013-07-17 18:00

    Name and shame the knock offs

  • Ronald Koenis - 2013-07-17 19:43

    The local "premium" tyre manufacturers are also guilty of misguiding the public. I did extensive research on my new tyre purchase and even bought German magazines that ran multiple comparison studies. However, when I wanted to compare prices for those on my short list I discovered that the editions sold in South Africa are not exactly the same (i.e. efficientgrip Good year is not the same in Europe and South-Africa) so the relative performance from all the studies can be thrown away as too the claims on fuel efficiency etc. Supposedly these tyres have been modified for SA road conditions, but I am suspicious that it may just be marketing words to mask that these are possibly grade B versions from the factory or cheaper manufactured variants.

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