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No Spare Tire, No Biggie? - The Garage

Where Have They Gone

Feb 13, 2015
Photographers: Jason Gonderman
Exceeds expectations. Meets expectations. Does not meet expectations. It’s all about expectations! In relationships, products, services—in all facets of life, really—we have certain expectations. We anticipate a certain level of performance and make judgments based on that belief. Now, the problem is that expectations are subjective, meaning two people may or may not hold the same expectation. Moreover, an individual’s expectation of even the same situation can change.
What are your expectations of a standard-equipped new car, truck, or SUV off of a dealer’s lot? For me, I would expect it to be, well, new. A straight, dent-free body; scratch-free paint; unworn tires; new-car-scent interior; reliable engine with only a few miles; and solid electrical connections throughout would fall within my expectations. Even more basically, I’d expect a complete vehicle: the correct number of doors, a steering wheel, front and rear bumpers, tailgate, and a complete interior, for example.
Pretty basic expectations, right? How about this one: I would expect some sort of spare tire to be somewhere on the vehicle. While it’s certainly not the most exciting piece of equipment on a vehicle, a spare tire does fall within the category of necessary vehicular safety paraphernalia…or does it?
I recently heard a story that had me baffled. After purchasing a brand-new crossover SUV, the owner soon realized that a big, blank void occupied the spot where the spare tire should be. The dealer’s response to such omission was simply: “Well, when was the last time you actually used a spare tire? I mean, it’s just not something people actually use. Have you ever had to change a tire before? Your SUV came with a tire pump and some patch kits, which should be sufficient in most cases.”
Photo 2/2   |   Dick Cepek Spare Tire
Wow. How would you even respond to this? For me, it boils down to four words: Does not meet expectations. My “show truck” still has its spare tire and, yes, it’s been used at least twice. One of those times was on the way to a show, ironically enough. I’m sure you have similar stories of spare tire utilization. It sucks, but it happens. Whether you want to use them or not, spare tires unfortunately actually do get used. They may not get used often (hopefully)—but they do get used.
Secondly, if we can start eliminating things we may use but really don’t actually use that often, we might as well start with car and health insurance, first-aid kits, jumper cables, emergency kits of any kind, solar power panels, and so on. Don’t get me wrong—you shouldn’t have to use these items. But what if you do? Isn’t that what being prepared is all about? Aren’t we taught to be prepared and self-sufficient? Can’t you just hear your dad in the background saying, “Where’s your spare tire, son? And you better have two for that trailer of yours.” Even if you have never changed your own flat tire, the roadside “tire guy” is still going to need a wheel and tire to mount for you.
So what’s the cause of such omission straight off the dealer’s lot? Let’s consider a few things. First, maybe there’s a monetary advantage to selling you a spare tire instead of providing one. You can be charged for the “option” of a spare tire, just like upgrading to heated seats. Secondly, no spare makes for a lighter vehicle, which is advantageous for meeting fuel economy regulations. Some precious pounds can be shed when “standard” equipment becomes “optional,” and thus removed by default. It all comes down to a numbers game at the end of the day. Thirdly, such strategy may encourage dependence on manufacturer roadside assistance programs.
Does your work truck have a spare tire? How about its trailer? Any spare tire stories to share?
–Monica Gonderman
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