Arizona rampage suspect charged

This March 2010 photo shows a man identified as Jared L. Loughner at the 2010 Tucson Festival of Books in Tucson, Ariz.

COLUMBIA — Michelin North America officials said Monday its new tire designed and tested in South Carolina offers drivers extremely long wear with added performance.

The company, headquartered in Greenville, unveiled the Defender passenger tire line at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The tire replaces Michelin’s previous premium passenger line, the HydroEdge, with tires the company says offers better traction, less noise, and more fuel efficiency at a lower cost.

The tires will be made in Greenville and Columbia, as well as a half-dozen other locations, Michelin North America executive vice president Scott Clark told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Clark said the tires, which come with a 90,000-mile tread life warranty, are geared toward drivers in a tough economy, who are keeping their cars and minivans longer and racking up high mileage before purchasing again. The tires, available in April, are made in 38 sizes, fitting more than 90 percent of standard passenger cars, according to a company release.

“It’s an outstanding tire we think is very much oriented to what consumers are looking for today,” Clark said.

Research on the South Carolina-born tire began more than two years ago, Clark said.

Michelin has 22,000 employees throughout North America, with 8,300 of those in South Carolina.

The company hired 2,000 people across North America in 2011 and is on track to do so again in 2012, Clark said.

He couldn’t put a job figure on the tires’ production in South Carolina, but said it represents another commitment toward keeping jobs in the state.

Michelin says that according to its testing, the Defender tires can stop shorter and last longer than competitors’ premium brands.

Recent announcements have only added to South Carolina’s status as the nation’s top employer of tire workers.

Michelin North America broke ground last April on a $200 million expansion of a Lexington facility expected to add 270 jobs over two years.

In September, Bridgestone Americas Inc. said it would invest more than $1 billion in two Aiken County projects that would add 850 jobs to its operations by 2020. A month later, Continental AG announced it would put $500 million into a Sumter tire plant that will employ 1,600 when its two-phase project is completed in 10 years.

And in June, Tire International said it would invest $25 million for a tire recycling and manufacturing operation that will employ 150 in Berkeley County.