Due to their success in establishing themselves as one of Honda's largest OE suppliers for tires, the Michelin brand has somewhat of a tarnished image in Honda enthusiast circles. As I myself have recently come to realize, this is a bit unfortunate because they currently offer some fantastic performance tires, and many people are looking to other tire makers when it comes time to replace their Honda or Acura's OEM tires.
How did this come to be? To put it in simple terms, it's all about compromise. Auto makers in general have very specific requirements that their OE tires must meet. And in speaking with insiders, it's pretty clear that Honda's OE tire requirements are amongst the industry's most stringent. As you might imagine, the design priorities are generally aligned with "core market" expectations rather than those of enthusiasts. Honda's always been about maximizing efficiency, so one of their top priorities is for a tire to deliver the least possible rolling resistance, even if it means a compromise in grip and comfort. Also top priorities are safety and manufacturing quality. Honda depends upon their suppliers to deliver highly consistent quality, and according to a number of Honda insiders, Michelin is one of the best tire makers in this respect. The next level of priorities is said to be ride comfort, noise, and wear characteristics. Then they start worrying about the tire's wet and dry grip. And of course, as with any manufacturer, cost is a huge issue, but the price sensitivity seems to vary a bit between models.
While this set of parameters plays okay on your everyday core market (Accord, Civic, Odyssey, etc...) vehicles, trying to apply the same goals to performance oriented vehicles hasn't really worked very well. Frequently, the end result is a contingency of dissatisfied enthusiasts. And this is where they develop a bad taste in their mouth for a given brand (Bridgestone is probably now getting a little taste of that thanks to the '04 TL's troublesome EL-42s).
I will admit that my own preferences had been skewed by my personal experiences with past OE tires. That is, until I had the chance to fully understand how having the right tire can have a huge impact on performance. Any time you put new tires on your car, chances are they're going to feel fabulous compared to the tires they replaced, almost regardless of brand. So at that moment, you feel quite satisfied that you made an intelligent purchase decision, and furthermore, that you were right about Brand X. But to fairly assess the merits of a given tire, really the only way to do it is in controlled conditions. Most people do not have this luxury (nor do we, normally), but large tire manufacturers have skilled staffs and test facilities that allow them to benchmark their products any time they wish. This past summer, I spent a fun-filled day at Michelin's Laurens Proving Grounds in South Carolina, comparing Michelin's latest performance tire, the Pilot Exalto 2 (PE2) to two of its contemporaries: Bridgestone's Potenza RE750 and Yokohama's AVS ES100.