Where (not) to buy tyres

by Attila Bekker April. 19, 2010 929 views

With the first technical inspection for the Legacy is coming up in May, it is time to buy a new set of summer tyres. I started looking online, and found the very impressive pneus-online [pneus-online-suisse.ch] site. They not only have an incredible selection and highly competitive prices, they also offer a very smooth online process, free delivery, and a long list of partner garages for the installation.

After spending some time reading tyre reviews, I set my mind on the Bridgestone Turanza ER300 225/45/R17, offering good performance, low wear and minimal noise. Pneus-online was selling that tyre 150 CHF per piece, which brought a total cost to 600 CHF excluding the installation. In order to save some more, I picked a garage in Montreux [quick-pneus.ch] (warning, ugliest website ever) which offered the cheapest installation fees. As the pneus-online website was suggesting to contact the garage before placing the delivery, I jumped into the car to have a look at the garage and clarify the details personally.

The garage was in a small street downtown. At the gate I found some fliers offering 4 tyres for the price of 2, so I started wondering maybe they can go under the pneus-online prices. I had to wait 5 minutes for the man who looked like the owner to pay some attention, even though there was only one car in the garage, its tyres being changed by his staff. I asked him for a price for the tyres I chose. He started flipping through some catalogs, first failing to find the right tyre, but finally producing a price of 539. Per tyre that was. He must have seen the expression on my face, because he immediately grabbed a calculator, and started to push the buttons in a frenzy. As far as I understood, he was giving an immediate 70% discount (he said 70, but in fact it is closer to 60), lowering the total price to 836, including installation.This was still about 150 over my reference price, so I asked him about buying the tyres from pneus-online, and having them delivered to his garage. He said that he was not going to install them, going into an pep talk about inferior tyres manufactured in China. My French was not really up to such a drama, but he quickly called back some lady from the street, it seemed she was already going home as it was closing time. With her translating, the owner explained to me that tyres bought from pneus-online are bad quality, unsafe, and wore off very quickly due to the fact that they are not designed for the European roads. He reiterated that he would not install such tyres, because he does not want to take warranty and be responsible.

I was very skeptical about the whole story, after all pneus-online sells over 200k tyres a year, how would that be possible if their products were low quality? Not to mention the safety and trade regulations, and the manufacturers' concern about their reputation. Most big companies have factories in developing countries, but they also have strict quality control. On the other hand I can clearly understand how can pneus-online work with a much lower margin, something the local garages cannot compete with.

I contacted pneus-online explaining the story but not identifying the garage. I also contacted the BMW garage in Vevey who were on pneus-online's list of partners as well. They replied in a few hours, and stated that there is no quality issue whatsoever, the only potential problem might be if I need to replace a tyre which is no longer in stock at pneus-online and not sold locally either, in which case I have to replace two tyres instead of one. That sounded fair, so I placed my order and chose the BMW garage for delivery. Shortly after I got a call from the pneus-online customer service, saying that they receive the tyres from the same supply as the local garages. They asked me to identify the garage refusing to install their tyres, so they can remove it from the list, preventing other customers to have the same experience. They said they might also call the garage posing as a potential customer. I told them which garage it was, and guess what, it is no longer on the list.

So, as far as I am concerned, I can highly recommend pneus-online, great prices, great website, and great customer service. And stay away from the small shops with lying proprietors and suspicious discounts.

Picture by Google Street View

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