One in seven cars does not have a spare tire. I now know the significance of this simple statistic.
But it does not have a spare tire. It has a flat-fixing pump and a special sealant for when you get a slow flat. Sufficient to get our car to the local dealer for a permanent fix.
But, ay, there’s the rub. My wife, a medical professional who uses the C-Max for home health visits across Central Texas, has managed to blow two tires (not slow leak flats, but shredded tires).
In the past she would have replaced the defective tire with the doughnut tire (or waited until some passerby would do it for her) or waited until AAA showed up to put the spare on.
But, with a blowout and no spare, she has had to wait until AAA showed up to tow her to the dealership. And on one Saturday afternoon that took a long time, and the dealership could not help replace the tire till Monday.
Her solution? She bought a spare tire, and put it in the back of the car. Done!
So what is going on here?
Spare tires have been standard equipment on most autos for more than a hundred years. What has taken the industry from providing many vehicles with two full-size spare tires (in the 1920s and 30s) to providing many vehicles with none today?
Space-saving (doughnut) spare tires began to appear in the mid-1970s as automakers sought to cut weight and increase the trunk space available as it downsized its cars.
That trend has continued as EPA fuel regulations (CAFE standards calling for new vehicles to be more fuel-efficient) and the quest for more luggage room have prompted major automakers to get creative in their efforts to reduce vehicle weight and a lack of storage space — especially in hybrids and electric vehicles.
How about run-flat tires (which can go 50 miles without air) or tire-inflator kits?
To be fair, Ford isn’t the only automaker skimping on spare tires. Others include Acura, Audi, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Dodge, Fiat, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Kia, Land Rover, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Scion, Smart, Toyota, and Volvo.
The only vehicles that still have full-size spares are most pickup trucks and large SUVs.
The carmakers argue that statistics justify the move, as most people won’t ever need to use a spare or want to change a tire, meaning that the spare is a waste of space and resources.
But if you are in that minority that shred a tire and have no replacement, it is not a matter of statistics, it is personal. And people get angry.
According to AAA, drivers are complaining so much about the lack of a spare, automakers are starting to return some type of spare to vehicles.
Honda has equipped all variants of the redesigned 2015 Fit with a spare tire after dropping the feature on the previous model.
With enough negative feedback, the trend will swing back to equipping cars with either a doughnut spare or a full-size spare.
My wife couldn’t wait. We now have a full-sized spare tire in our lovely, speedy, and fuel-efficient hybrid car.
British editorial veteran Stuart Hampton has been covering oil and gas companies for Hoover’s since the Neogene-Quaternary period. Well, actually, since the early 1990s. For the best overview of the oil industry and its history he recommends Daniel Yergin’s “The Prize.” You can also follow Stuart on Twitter.