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Winter Tire Test Scam


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The article below is almost 3 years old, but this is the first I have heard about how Continental Tire submits ringers to the Scandinavian magazines for their winter tire testing. Continental readily admits that the tires they submit are not production tires, but are custom manufactured for each magazine, so as to get high test scores (and the resulting high sales).



Article from AFTONBLADET, Swedish newspaper – Published on the 25th December 2004 – Reporter Robert Colin


Continental sends better Tyres to Tests than to motorists.

The German tyre manufacturer CONTINENTAL is not afraid to use any means necessary to win press tyre tests. Aftonbladet can prove that this company has won tests with doctored tyres.


Winning a tyre test results in increased sales.

Here in Sweden the winner of a tyre test can increase its sales by tens of thousand of Crowns, and in large countries such as France or Germany, hundreds of millions.

If the press were to buy tyres from a dealer this problem would not exist. However, when we test winter tyres in February or March to publish the results in autumn, the new products aren’t yet on the market. To include these new products in the tests, the press has to trust the manufacturers to deliver the correct tyres.


How did they win?

This year the usually secret tyre test department in Hanover has been particularly creative.

They have produced tyres adapted to each magazine.

The winner of Aftonbladet test 2004, amongst others, was Continental Viking Contact 3.

Viking also won in Auto Motor och Sport from Norway, which puts more importance on smooth surfaces. The Norwegians received a tyre with extra rigid sidewalls.

We at AftonBladet received tyres with an extra soft rubber compound, which gives better grip on ice, the characteristic that we stress the most.

The tyre we used for the test also had sidewalls reinforced to increase stability on smooth surfaces.


We have now purchased the consumer version of the tested tyre, and carried out new tests. It is apparent that there is a great difference between the tyres. The tyres we purchased had lower grip on ice and a lower stability on smooth surfaces. It is definitely not a test winner.


Some sources from within Continental at Hanover, questioned by Aftonbladet admit that the doctoring is an important element in their activity.

“We know well of course the priorities of the different magazines and we make tyres accordingly” … says an employee.


“We must win”

“The competition is even more intense in Central Europe, and the financial turnover is so important that we simply must win the tests. That’s why we always deliver special tyres.” says another employee.


Roland Martensson, responsible for NordicWinter tyre development at Continetal, admits that there is doctoring, mainly with the competitors.


“Others are cheating”

“I know that the other tyre manufacturers are cheating, but I have never heard that we have a department specialised to this purpose”.

“If there are differences between tyres that we deliver to you, and those in the market, this is due more to production variations or productions errors” said Roland Martensson.


The proof illustrated: How Continental cheats. The rigid bead filler of the test tyre is 3,5mm longer and finishes closer to the tread. This results in a tyre with better lateral stability.

The test tyre has greater thickness and is more stable

The normal tyre – unstable and narrower"




Second article from the same AFTONBLADET, Swedish newspaper –

Published the 25th December 2004 – Reporter Robert Collin.




The easiest doctoring to carry out is improving tyre grip at the expense of wear resistance - this being difficult to test.

A winter tyre’s characteristics are a compromise where wet, dry, snow and ice grip should be balanced in a correct manner. Also comfort and wear resistance should be satisfactory. Stability on asphalt is in direct opposition to grip in winter conditions, and grip in general is in direct opposition to wear resistance.


Is it only Continental who cheats?

It is probable that other tyre manufacturers also cheat. One tyre manufacturer who seems to be above cheating is the French multi-giant Michelin. This could be one reason why Michelin rarely wins press tests.

Robert Collins started testing tyres with the Finnish Magazine Tekniikan Maailma in 1984. Their tests which are the most advanced of the Nordic tests also have the widest circulation. They are published in Aftonbladet and in the Swedish Auto Motor och Sport, as well as in Finland, Norway, Russia and Estonia."

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I still think Continental makes good tyres, without a doubt!


That said, I still don't appreciate Continental's behaviour where they tailor their tyres for a particular test/review. The reviews are still valid and useful, but have to be taken with a pinch of salt. I found some sites online that include customer reviews, some people may find them useful. (The only downside to consumer reviews is that they aren't under controlled conditions)


http://www.carbonblack.com.au - some Australian site that allows you to buy tyres online


http://www.tirerack.com - similar to CarbonBlack, but for the US


http://www.1010tires.com - similar to the above two, but I don't think they have a purchasing platform.



At least Continental admits to it though...

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(The only downside to consumer reviews is that they aren't under controlled conditions)


And that they are usually reviewed by people without extensive experience with lots of different types of tires.


But, taken with professional reviews, I think we can get a fuller picture of a tires worth.

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And that they are usually reviewed by people without extensive experience with lots of different types of tires.


But, taken with professional reviews, I think we can get a fuller picture of a tires worth.


You're right, consumer reviews are not as technically based, but they are still useful nonetheless. I agree, combining them with professional reviews is about as good as we can get.

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My belief on winter tires or any tires is that testing on dry and wet is straightforward. However it is near impossible to cover a good mix of winter conditions because of the consistency, temperature and depth of ice/snow/slush whci varies day by day.


I have found personally over 4 different sets of winter tires(Blizzack WS-50, Nokian WR, Nokian NRW, Michelin X+S Alpin) they are absolutely superior to the others in a certain winter condition while paling in another. Most tests are performed in a narrow time window only shows a comparison of a condition not overall. Way too many variables.


I will say I have found my Bridgestone RE960's actually better in certain ice conditions than some of previous pure winter tires.

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