Michelin ranks highest in original equipment (OE) tyre satisfaction, according to the JD Power and Associates 2002 UK original equipment tyre customer satisfaction index study released on Wednesday.

The study, now in its fifth year, surveys owners regarding their satisfaction with the tyres that came with their new vehicle at the time of purchase.

"Each year, consumers become more aware of the important role tyres play in their driving performance, comfort and safety," said JD Power partner Patricia Hogan. "They perceive significant differences across tyre brands, and they look to the tyre manufacturer to equip their new vehicle with tyres they can trust."

Michelin owners gave their OE tyres the highest ratings on all five factors of the satisfaction index (tyre quality/durability; appearance; traction; ride/handling; and effect on fuel economy), establishing a particularly significant lead for Michelin over the rest of the industry. Michelin has ranked highest in the study for five consecutive years.

Continental made its best-ever showing in the UK study, climbing to rank second with high ratings for traction, ride/handling and fuel economy.

Goodyear ranked third in the study with an index score at the industry average.

"Quality and durability are the most important aspects of satisfaction with OE tyres, followed by appearance, traction, and ride and handling performance," said JD Power research supervisor Nathalie Gooding.

"It is critical that tyre manufacturers understand how their customers perceive these characteristics, as OE tyre satisfaction has a direct influence on tyre brand repurchase and customer intent to recommend the brand to others."

Most of the attributes measured in the satisfaction index contribute in some part to overall owner perception of tyre safety. When asked to rate their tyres based on impressions of the safety provided, Michelin owners gave their tyres the highest ratings, followed by owners of Goodyear and Dunlop tyres, respectively.

JD Power's 2002 UK OE tyre customer satisfaction index study was based on the experiences and opinions of 2,504 UK motorists after two and a half years of ownership, and measured owner perceptions regarding tyre quality, performance, brand image and service behaviours.

Bridgestone, Dunlop, Firestone, Kumho and Pirelli brands were also included in the study.