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Smell My Rubber No Really Smell It - Driver S Seat

Robert Choo
Oct 1, 2007

Tire customization has been brought to an entirely new level that I would have never guessed. Kumho recently announced the release of the world's first fragrance automotive tire, the ECSTA DX. The project is the "fruition" (I couldn't resist) of more than a year's worth of research and development to deliver "an alluring aroma tire that replaces the normal 'black rubber' smell." What fragrance did they come up with, you ask? The tires are infused with heat-resistant oils in lavender, neroli (orange) or jasmine scents.

Lavender aroma tires. Yes, you read that correctly: floral-scented tires. We all know that walking into a tire store smells funny, but who knew in some marketing study somewhere people were asked if they'd want their tires to smell differently. I can't imagine anyone noticing the smell of their tires once they're on their vehicle, but apparently I'm wrong.

Kumho's new Lavender Aroma Tires are sold through and available in 205/60R16, 215/60R16 and 235/60R16 sizes, which would fit a stock Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, among others. I find the choice in sizes interesting. Obviously to test market a product you can't afford to risk coming out with a million dimensions, but to only select 16-inch wheels is interesting. Are they banking on average women driving average cars to want to make their homes and their tires smell floral fresh? In Kumho's press release it actually states that, as we were assuming, they're targeting female consumers. That seems to be a fundamental error since males are probably making tire purchasing decisions for the majority of female consumer's cars. (Dude, you want some flower-scented tires for your girlfriend's car? Uh no, thanks man, just sell me the cheapest ones.) It seems to me that if you're marketing custom tires you'd want to market it to consumers customizing their wheels and offer 18 to 20-inch sizes.

If I had to guess which automotive consumers would purchase scented tires I'd predict it would be the VIP style crowd. Scented tires have Junction Produce written all over them. Luxury cars, luxurious style to soothe your senses: visually look nice, a physically comfortable ride, and hey - nice smelling too. VIP style is about riding easy and flossing. The VIP market isn't about bare bones, getting rid of extra weight and dumping the interior and A/C. I guarantee you that every Junction Produce style car has an air freshener in it - appearance is numero uno and that includes your olfactory senses. As such (Kumho marketing are you listening?), I think aroma-infused tires would sell well among VIP enthusiasts. It'd be another trick part to brag about - another aesthetic non-performance-related part that would suit the show car crowd well.

Also, if you really care, Kumho reports that the DX has other redeeming qualities as well. "In addition to a unique aroma, the ECSTA DX is engineered to deliver low-noise levels and ... tread elements designed to provide uniform linear stiffness ... while a straight center rib provides high-speed stability." Blah, blah, blah. Error No. 2: customers buying scented tires could probably care less about the engineering of the product.

First it was a colored rubber stripe on the tires. Then it was customized tread patterns. Next, Kumho came in with a tire line that produces red smoke for the drifting crowd. Once again, they're back at the innovation front with aroma-infused tires. I love the aftermarket industry! Goodness knows what on earth will come next in the tire customization scene - I can't even fathom. Someone call Kumho and tell them to make "dem flower tires" in bigger sizes, then they can really see if they sell.

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By Robert Choo
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