Michelin has issued a stirring defence of its insistence a tyre tread depth of 1.6mm is consistent with safety and performance, insisting it sees “no reason” to move to 3mm or 4mm being pushed by some other manufacturers.

The French supplier maintains it markets tyres which ensure safety during a longer lifespan and save fuel due to limited rolling resistance, limiting excessive raw material consumption and CO2 emissions.

“A tyre is new very few moments in its life – as soon as you put it on a car a tyre starts to wear” – Michelin group chief operating officer Florent Menegaux told just-auto at last week’s Paris Motor Show. “We wanted to demonstrate technology can reconcile safety and the environment in all our tyres.

“There are people trying to push additional tread depth limit, but we say no, there is evidence we have technology to provide safe tyres on 1.6mm. We see no reason to change 1.6mm. Many times we speak about programmed obsolescence – tyres can be programmed obsolescence.

“Sustainability and measuring performance at 1.6mm – we think that is the way to go. In terms of the environment, 1mm additional, if the threshold was 3mm [for example], this would mean millions of tyres being wasted, taken off the road and the impact on the environment will be massive.”

Michelin insists no statistics establish a link between an increase in the number of accidents when tyre tread depth is less than 4mm, while premium tyres with 1.6mm can be more efficient than new budget variants.

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The tyre manufacturer also points to the cost of replacing a 3mm or 4mm, a process it views as unnecessary given the advances in tyre technology. Changing a tyre at 3mm or 4mm – it maintains – is roughly equivalent to an extra tyre per car every two years.

“We have to explain – we invite all the time the people who are making regulations,” said Menegaux who added French Prime Minister Manuel Valls had visited the Michelin stand at the Paris show where the manufacturer outlined its campaign for tread depth of 1.6mm

“We explained to him [Valls] there was a big difference,” noted Menegaux. “A tyre is black and round – everybody can pretend [claim] this round and black object can do the same thing but it is only when testing you can see the difference.

“I spoke to Valls personally about the Pilot Sport 4S – he understands Michelin – he visited us in our research centre 15 days ago. We have invested in a massive new building to enable our researchers to make better platform [s].

“We spend EUR700m (US$781m) a year in research and we demonstrated to him [Prime Minister] a lot of different technologies.”

Michelin is used to such high-profile politicians – the supplier was recently with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Detroit and Queen Elizabeth II in its Scottish plant in Dundee.