AKRON (Nov. 28, 2000)—Goodyear, fuzzy caterpillars and scientists from the National Weather Service are all forecasting a return to colder, snowier weather during the coming winter.
Goodyear officials say they´re prepared for an early snowfall. Despite a mild winter last year, the company has shipped 37 percent more winter tires than in 1998.
Mark Cherveny, product manager for auto tires, said the company is expecting accelerated demand for winter tires this season. Goodyear, he said, hopes to increase its share of the winter tire market share by 25 percent this year and double it by 2003.
Mr. Cherveny said winter tire growth is expected to continue, especially in lgiht of forecasts calling for:
* A return to "normal" conditions in the Great Plains states, the Midwest and Northeast, where cold air outbreaks are expected to bring an increase in below-zero temperatures and heavier lake-effect snows.
Forecasters say Washington, D.C. could see average temperatures 4 degrees Fahrenheit colder than during the past three winters; Minneapolis could be 6 degrees cooler and Chicago 5 degrees. Even Florida, which will be warmer than normal this season, could see cold air outbreaks or "Florida Freezes;
The company also sees winter tire designs increasing due to a resurgence in rear-wheel-drive vehicles in addition to the more traditional sports cars and large luxury sedans that now make up much of that market segment.
Advances in traction and stability-control systems will improve rear-wheel-drive traction on wet or snowy roads—but such traction will only be as good as the tires that grip the roadway, Goodyear officials contend.
"Tires play the single largest role in determining how your vehicle will handle in an emergency situation," Mr. Cherveny said. "It doesn´t matter how many electronic systems you have on your vehicle, such as traction control and anti-lock braking. The brakes might stop your wheels, but the tires stop your vehicle," he said.
Those who question the infallibility of scientific weather forecasters may want to check the prognostications of the Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack, the nation´s second-oldest almanac which bases its annual predictions on the black and reddish-brown markings of the woolly bear caterpillar.
Frank Leiter, the almanac´s chief weather forecaster, said he examined 632 caterpillars and found their black markings longer than usual—a sure sign of cold weather at least in western Maryland, he contends.
Goodyear this season has expanded its winter tire lineup with eight new sizes of its premium Ultra Grip Ice winter radial, for a total of 22 sizes; five additional sizes of its Ultra Grip winter tire for 21 total sizes; and four new sizes of the Eagle Ultra Grip performance tires for a total of 21 in all.
The Akron-based tire maker also offers a Wrangler Ultra Grip winter tire for light trucks and sport-utility vehicles. All feature the company´s IceLoc silica tread compound, said to deliver up to 35 percent better snow traction and up to a 40-percent improvement in ice traction compared with conventional all-season tires.