ORLANDO, Fla.Sales of winter tires in North America are expected to experience modest growth this year of about 2 to 3 percent, according to Ron Margadonna, technical marketing manager for Michelin North America Inc.
He shared several trends during the ITEC Show that tire dealers can expect to see in the winter tire market:
c More tires with the three-peak mountain/snowflake insignia, that can be run year-round. However, there are some compromises with this product, Mr. Margadonna said, such as reduced winter safety to gain summer performance. These tires are suitable for moderate climate regions, he pointed out.
c Europe is considering an insignia for ice traction tires. Sometime in the futurethis is crystal ballon a winter tire you may have M+S, you may have the three-peak mountain/snowflake and you may have an igloo marking indicating that it meets a threshold on ice, he said.
c We're going to see advancements in tread compounds.... We're pretty much at the peak mechanically. There are only so many small biting edges you can put in a footprint. But most of the gains are going to be done on the material side or the molecular piecemore silica, better polymers where silica, added as reinforcement, can give us that grip. That's where I see the gain.
c Inclusions, such as some type of material, added to the tread compound for traction as the tire wears.
c Retractable tire studs, such as those proposed recently in a concept tire from Nokian Tyres P.L.C., are a potential innovation for regions where studded tire use is limited.
Mr. Margadonna also provided some tips for tire dealers who sell winter tires:
c The speed rating listed on the OE placard can be down-rated. If a car comes with a V-rated tire, like a Toyota Camry, a dealership can install a winter tire that has a lower speed rating, such as a T or S, he said, or it can go up one speed rating.
c For minus tire sizing, dealers can replace a 16-inch rim diameter tire with a higher aspect-ratio 15- or 14-inch tire to improve performance in snow or slush. You're probably better off with something narrower to traverse through that, he said. It's kind of like a plowing effect.
c Offer off-season tire storage for customers. Canadian tire dealers for years have been offering this as a value-added service opportunity, he said. One of the advantages, he said, is that dealerships normally see those customers twice a year when they come in to switch tires on their vehicles and that can create an opportunity to provide other services at the same time.