FRANKFURT—Europe's most severe winter in nearly five decades has led to record winter tire sales across the continent, prompting manufacturers to stretch out or even restart production of certain sizes to fill shortages. In Germany, the single largest market for winter tires, dealers and manufacturers report empty warehouses and shortages in most popular sizes.
For the calendar year 1996, sales were 20 percent higher than 1995 at more than 12 million units, according to industry data, bringing the M+S share of the German replacement market to nearly one-third of all new tires sold. Retreaded M+S tires accounted for at least another 3 million units, dealer sources indicated.
Europe-wide sales of winter tires will likely exceed 25 million units, industry sources estimated.
Among manufacturers, Continental AG, Goodyear Europe, Pirelli Tyre Holding NV and Sumitomo Rubber Europe BV reported continuing or restarting winter tire production to satisfy market demands for certain sizes.
Normally, the bulk of winter tires are produced and shipped in the summer months. In a ``normal'' winter season, the vast majority of snow tire sales are handled in November and December.
On a European scale, winter tires represent up to 15 percent of replacement market shipments of new car tires.