Long ignored as an integral part of a vehicle, tires suddenly are top-of-mind to many consumers, based on the media attention given to the Bridgestone-Firestone tire recall.

But even before the recall began, a new market survey says most consumers pay attention to the tires that come on their new vehicle. Goodyear officials say the numbers could be even higher now.

More than 82 percent of the survey's participants indicated it was important to know the manufacturer and brand of tires on their vehicle, according to the Planning Edge, an analysis and consulting firm in Farmington Hills, Mich.

Jim Vogel, Goodyear's vice president of marketing for North American Tire, said the replacement market follows trends in the new car-tire segment. "Brand recognition is running at an all-time high, not surprisingly. People are paying closer attention to their tires now," Vogel said.

Goodyear brand loyalty has increased significantly in the past decade, Vogel said. A company study earlier this year indicated that nearly 42 percent of consumers are replacing their Goodyear original-equipment tires with Goodyear replacement tires, up from 33.4 percent in 1990.

"Obviously this brand recognition gives Goodyear a competitive advantage in North America," Vogel said. "The company's commanding lead in the new car- tire market provides a needed boost in the replacement market where we are introducing exciting new tires, such as the Aquatred 3 family-car tire."

Vogel said a Sept. 7 CNW Marketing poll proves that market share leadership has its advantages. Among consumers who planned to replace their tires, 55.2 percent said they would choose Goodyear, compared to 36.7 percent prior to the recall. Only 4.1 percent said they would buy Firestones, down from a pre-recall 21.4 percent.

Kathleen Rizk, managing partner of The Planning Edge, said "Consumers are clearly opinionated about the tires that come on their cars and trucks and the value of individual vehicles can be improved if the automaker chooses the right tire brand for each vehicle."

Rizk said the study should be a reminder to automakers that "it is imperative to provide consumers with the products and brands that they want and need. More often, a product's quality and value are being defined by the brand names of key components on the vehicle and not just by the manufacturer of the vehicle."

Vogel said a tire recall is a "wakeup call" to the importance of tire branding. "In many cases, the brand name can benefit the vehicle's image. The automakers should tout supplier brand names more often."

With combined new-car tire and replacement-tire sales almost one-third greater than its closest competitor, Goodyear is North America's No. 1 tiremaker. Part of the world's largest tire company, Goodyear's North American tire business has manufacturing operations in 13 U.S. states, three Canadian provinces and Mexico.

The company produces and sells Goodyear and Dunlop tires for new vehicles. In the replacement market, the company markets the Goodyear, Dunlop, Kelly, Lee, Hallmark, Monarch and Star brands, as well as several private-brand tire lines.