In cost-cutting measure, automakers shun spare tires - but at what price to consumers?  Though car sales slowed in May because of supply chain disruptions emanating from Japan, the rebound in the global auto industry has been one of the bright spots of the nascent economic recovery. According to a published report, automakers are cutting business costs by eliminating spare tires from new car models.

The Los Angeles Times reports that carmakers are increasingly shunning the spare tire and are scaling back the product's incorporation into vehicle design. The reduced weight that results from the removal of the spare tire has helped engineers to improve gas mileage and contributed to manufacturing cost reductions, industry analysts assert.

What happens, though, if a car gets a flat tire?

Carmakers have thought out the solution to that problem as well, and some are equipping their cars with run-flat tires while others place flat-fixing repair kits in the trunks of the new vehicle models. Still, the trend is worrying some safety experts who assert that such kits are not as effective as the spare tire.

"I like the security of having a spare. It gives you peace of mind," Mary Beth Wasmer, who recently purchased a used BMW 335, told the news source. She almost changed her mind about buying the vehicle when she could not find a spare tire. "I couldn't find it. I opened the trunk, I looked underneath and there was no spare or even a compartment to put one in."

While consumers may have their reservations about the removal of spare tires, it's a trend that is seemingly catching on within the industry. In 2008, nearly all new cars had spare tires, but of the more than 1 million cars sold in the U.S. in May, more than 13 percent did not come equipped with a spare tire.

Carmakers across the globe are embracing the trend, according to, with brands as diverse as Hyundai, General Motors and BMW all quickly - and rather quietly - abandoning the spare tire.

By inserting an inflator-type kit into its new cars instead of spare tires, Hyundai saves more than $22 per vehicle. This year, the automaker, which said car sales increased by more than 35 percent this May from 2010, plans to sell 200,000 Elantras. In total, the company can achieve a business cost reduction of more than $4.4 million with the loss of spare tires.

The extra weight of the spare tire affects overall performance, and even a slight reduction in a car's total weight can result in an uptick in the miles per gallon sticker that adorns every new car sold in the U.S. For example, automakers that have gotten rid of the spare tire in certain models and subsequently have it assessed by the government are thrilled if it adds even one-tenth of a mile of efficiency to their fuel economy tests.

According to director of vehicle testing Don Edmunds, that's because it allows automakers to hit numbers like 19.5 miles per gallon, which they can then round up - legally - to 20 miles per gallon when they market the cars.

"Manufacturers do a lot of little things to squeeze more of the last bits of toothpaste out of the tube," Edmunds affirmed. "Weight reduction is just one of them and spare tires are a tempting target." What's more, with commodity prices soaring over the past year, the money saved on the strategic sourcing of rubber helps increase profit margins.

Nonetheless, safety officials and consumers alike worry that such moves will result in more accidents and additional costs down the road. 
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