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Colorful Tires Become a Burning Issue

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Curb Those Tires! We first told you about those BFGoodrich brand tires with colored treads last year (Highway 1, Nov. 19).

Now that Michelin North America unit is finally selling them, a controversy has quickly erupted. The tires come with colored bands molded into the tread (yellow hit the market Aug. 1, with red, blue and other choices to follow in the next year), and pundits early on were wondering if they’d enable hot-doggers to leave colored stripes on the asphalt when doing burnouts. Well, they do, and now some Northern California stalwarts are trying to ban sales of the Scorcher T/A brand tires.

Napa Police Chief Dan Monez worries that they could let gang members mark the streets with “gang graffiti without leaving their cars.” And the Gilroy City Council has launched an anti-Scorcher petition. San Francisco officials have also voiced concern about the colored treads.

For its part, Michelin has issued a news release regarding “the possible misuse” of its tires, noting that “we absolutely do not condone reckless or illegal driving” and that the tires were developed “to provide consumers the opportunity to achieve a higher level of vehicle customization.”

Meanwhile, we await word on what the city fathers in Irvine--Southern California’s most planned of places--think about the tinted tires. But if push comes to shove, we’re not betting on the tire maker, unless it introduces a line with beige highlights.

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Those Ads Add Up: Auto makers spent $2.5 billion on advertising in the U.S. during the first quarter this year. That’s $637 and change for each of the 3,922,413 new cars and light trucks sold in the country between Jan. 1 and March 31.

Among the big spenders was Honda Motor Co. at $140.1 million, including $36.9 million on its ad campaign to launch the redesigned 1999 Odyssey minivan. That’s about $2,840 for each of the 12,980 Odysseys sold during the quarter.

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Millions and Millions: California’s only mainstream automobile plant--New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., in Fremont--recently produced its 1 millionth pickup truck and is approaching the 4-million mark in total production since it started operations late in 1984. The plant is a joint venture of Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Corp. and now makes Corolla cars and Tacoma pickups for Toyota and Chevrolet Prizm sedans for GM. It also made Chevy Novas from 1984 to 1988 and Toyota’s Corolla-based FX hatchback from 1986 through 1988.

Korean Car Kudos: Daewoo Motor America hasn’t exactly been swimming in good press since the South Korean auto maker started selling its cars in the U.S. late last year.

But now the Automobile Club of Southern California has given the Gardena-based company (whose parent is being dismantled as part of South Korea’s continuing economic shake-up) a bit of a boost. Daewoo’s entry-level Lanos SE three-door hatchback and Nubira SX station wagon topped the club’s 1999 Target Car list in the category of best overall value for lowest price.

Finishing out the list was the Hyundai Elantra GLS wagon, another South Korean entry. Mazda’s B4000 SE pickup with extended four-door cab led trucks in the best value for price.

The annual Target Car list is a selection of vehicles that best provide the features--safety, performance and comfort--that Auto Club members say they want in their next car.

The top five cars (plus top truck), regardless of price, on the ’99 Target Car list are:

BMW 528iT four-door sport wagon.

BMW 328i sedan.

Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG sedan (AMG is a performance tuner).

Volvo S80 T-6 sedan.

Mercedes-Benz CLK430 coupe.

Chevrolet Silverado LS 1500 two-wheel-drive, three-door, long-bed pickup with 5.3-liter V-8 engine.

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John O’Dell can be reached at john.odell@latimes.com.


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