SAN ANGELO, Texas-Goodyear has incorporated its AquaChannel technology in a new Wrangler light truck tire the company hopes will storm the growing replacement market. The Wrangler Aquatred, a merging of the design and performance characteristics of the Wrangler GS-A and the Aquatred, is slated to appear in dealerships this spring, the company told journalists attending a long-lead press introduction at its San Angelo test track last October.
Goodyear officials believe the tire will forge its own market niche by addressing the road-performance concerns of sport-utility-vehicle (SUV) and light-truck owners.
``We're aiming this new tire at owners who use their SUVs and trucks as second or third cars,'' said Bill Hopkins, general manager for Goodyear multi-purpose vehicle and specialty tires.
Goodyear's marketing research showed owners of SUVs and light trucks were interested in the highway performance characteristics of a tire, including long treadlife, strong wet and all-surface traction and a quiet ride, coupled with an aggressive looking tread pattern, Mr. Hopkins said.
``Although their vehicles can go off-road, most are used as passenger and light utility vehicles and get about as far off the road as the parking lot of their local garden center,'' he said.
The tire's introduction comes at a time when almost 40 percent of all new vehicle sales are some type of light truck. With nearly 50 percent of all U.S. households owning an SUV or light truck and 56 million such vehicles on the road today, it is time to bring the Wrangler Aquatred to the replacement market, Mr. Hopkins said.
Most of the tire's wet traction comes from two AquaChannel grooves placed in the middle of the same three-zone tread pattern Goodyear used on its Wrangler GS-A, introduced in 1991. The outboard tread zone provides cornering, the middle zone wet traction and the inboard zone and shoulder all-weather, all-surface traction.
Goodyear's test data show the Wrangler Aquatred outperforms the GS-A by 5.7 percent in treadwear, 5.1 percent in wet handling and equals the GS-A in snow traction, according to Mike Kolowski, chief engineer, light trucks.
The new Wrangler will be introduced to Goodyear dealers at the company's annual dealer conference in San Diego in late January and subsequently to consumers via television commercials and magazine advertisements. It will be available in eight P- and LT-metric sizes.
The Wrangler Aquatred is expected to be priced ``a little'' above the Wrangler GS-A, Goodyear's current premium Wrangler product, Mr. Hopkins said.