An economic slump the past few years apparently hasn't slowed the specialty tire market.
On the contrary, new tire lines keep coming out for various specialty tire applications, creating opportunities for more independent tire dealers to service that segment than just a few years ago, according to some specialty tire makers and marketers.
Because most specialty tires are necessary items, dealers can supply customers easily with product, be it skid steer, ATV, trailer or lawn mower tires. And specialty tire companies have been busy keeping up with demand.
``I believe we are less affected in a down economy because specialty tires and their applications are necessary, and it's ongoing,'' said Jeff Waechter, director of aftermarket sales and marketing for Carlisle Tire & Wheel Co. in Aiken, S.C. ``Over the past several years, we've seen growth in the marketplace.''
Some of the hottest segments are the trailer and ATV markets. Replacement radial trailer tires are growing at a rate to match a similar boom seen in the original equipment market during the 1990s, according to Tom Beasley, national sales manager for Greenball Corp., based in Long Beach, Calif.
Patrick D'Auria, an account executive with Covington, Ga.-based Duro Tire & Wheel Corp./Hwa Fong Rubber (USA) Inc., told Tire Business the company is planning to expand its product line to include radial trailer tires by early 2004. Many trailer manufacturers are requesting radials over bias ply ``out of a perceived benefit to the consumer,'' he said.
The company's parent, Hwa Fong Rubber Industry Co. Ltd., has a technology supply pact with Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd., which will open a tire plant in Jiangsu, China, by early 2004.
Mr. D'Auria said radial trailer tires may be ``potential future products'' manufactured at the Jiangsu plant, but declined to comment further.
Carlisle's Mr. Waechter said the company launched a new size for its Radial Trail line- ST245/75R16-late last year and is planning to have more sizes of the trailer tire available within the next 30-45 days in time for debut at this year's Specialty Equipment Market Association/International Tire Expo in Las Vegas. He said Carlisle has had success offering the tire line as an alternative to light truck tires.
``(Radial Trail) gives the trailer manufacturers a choice because these tires are expressly made to carry the loads that trailers use,'' Mr. Waechter explained. ``LT tires are common in the marketplace for trailer tires but are not really designed for trailer use. We've tried to create a tire that is designed to carry the loads and take the abuse that trailers typically go through.''
A trailer tire's radial construction incorporates heavier material, so even though the tire has a load range D, it can still carry the same capacity as a light truck tire with a load range E, which commonly fits a trailer, according to Mr. Waechter.
In the ATV sector, Mr. Waechter said Carlisle unveiled the Badlands XTR radial earlier this year in addition to about 20 other lines of ATV tires the company offers. The tire comes in three sizes to fit 12-inch rim diameters-AT205/80R12, AT255/65R12 and AT270/60R12.
The ATV market is growing in both the replacement and OE sectors, Mr. Waechter said, and Carlisle plans to sell more replacement ATV tires because-depending on the use and rider-ATV tires can wear out very quickly. At the same time, people are shifting from purchasing watercraft for recreation to the more racy ATVs.
``ATV has become more and more popular since (the industry) went away from the three-wheelers to quads,'' he explained. ``It's a somewhat affordable option still.''