ORLANDO, Fla.Innovations have blurred the lines between what's considered a standard tire and a high-performance tire as more and more popular car models are coming equipped OE with HP tires
A panel of high-performance tire experts from several tire manufacturers discussed the trends in the HP tire market during ITEC.
We want bigger, faster, stronger, said Chris Welty, ultra-high-performance education and marketing specialist for Bridgestone Americas Inc. All the manufacturers are doing is giving us what we want. Driving all these trends seems to be what consumers are asking for.
OE shipments of T-speed-rated tires have declined 29 percent during the last 10 years, he said, while at the same time shipments of H-, W- and V-rated tires have increased.
Larger diameter tires are beginning to represent a large portion of the market, compared with 10 years ago when 16-, 15- and 14-inch rim diameter tires accounted for 85 percent of the market, according to Scott Jamieson, director of product for the Americas, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.
So why is this happening? I don't think it's because a portion of the car parc is getting any larger or that everyone is buying a Corvette. It's happening because of the accidental performance consumer, as it was cited, is getting into the passenger touring segment, he said.
He noted that popular car models, such as the Buick Regal and Honda Accord, and cross-over vehicles are coming equipped with high-performance tires.
The car manufacturers are looking to tune the chassis a little bit more sensitive to give the consumers what they wantcrisper handling, quicker stopping distances, better wet tractionthese things that come with the high performance tire characteristics, he said.
It's a performance metric of what you expect in a UHP tire brought to everyday driving, Mr. Jamieson said. Stopping distance and wet traction is important to the everyday driver. We are designing performance tires for everyday driving....
High-performance trends in passenger touring are very evident as we've seen in speed-rated changes, he said. But it's not just in speed rating and tire sizes, it's also in the compounding formulation and the makeup of the tire that we are able to take to the market today.
High-performance tire engineering that is appearing on consumer vehicles include asymmetric tread designs; advanced tread compounds optimized for ride comfort, noise and handling; lighter weight, higher strength materials used for internal constructions; and features added to the tread pattern that complement the design and compound to provide increased levels of performance, according to Mr. Jamieson.
One of the most important aspects about the performance business today is knowing more, not just about the segment, but about the tire model that you sell, Rick Brennan, executive director of marketing for Falken Tire Corp., told tire dealers in attendance. You can't just pick an ultra-high-performance tire today and assume that you know its performance level.
He said each HP tire model has a different level of performance but most of all it has a different personality and its being driven today not just by the plus-sizing that we saw as the craze in the '90s. Now it's being driven by OE because for original equipment they've now gotten on the bandwagon and figured out the consumer wants a larger wheel and shorter tire for appearance.
He noted that 13 of the 20 top-selling tires are performance tires, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association data.
From 2011 to 2013 H-rated (OE tires) doubled and so did V. So you have a lot of cars that are now being purchased by normal consumers that come with performance tires, Mr. Brennan said.
The replacement tire trend will mirror the OE shipment trend, he added.
Tire dealers need to know much more about each individual tire model and what you sell and what's available and what this guy really wants....
You have so many choices to choose, 'one size fits all' doesn't really fit anymore. So to really please the consumer, you have to know a lot more about each individual tire model we sell, not just the brand or the segment it fits in.
Dan Baggetta, performance category general manager for Goodyear, noted that over the past 13 years, the performance tire market has grown significantly.
In fact, the OE performance tire category was the least impacted among tire categories by the recession of 2008 and 2009. It's outperformed the market in 11 out of the past 13 years, he said.
In 2000, OE performance tires accounted for about 10 percent of the market; by last year it had tripled to 31 percent of the market, at the expense of the touring market, Mr. Baggetta said.
The performance tire market also has grown and outpaced the rest of the replacement tire market in 11 of the past 13 years, he added.
High-volume (vehicle) fitments are really driving that performance growth, he said, adding, OE is driving this proliferation and the expectation, at least on the performance side of the business, is that it will continue.
Run-flat tires is an area of the high-performance tire market that also is expected to grow as auto makers seek ways to improve a vehicle's fuel efficiency.
There are a lot of reasons why the original equipment manufacturers want to go to a product like a run-flat, Mr. Welty said.
From an OEM standpoint, using run-flat tires reduces the weight of the tire-wheel component, eliminates the waste of unused spare tires and wheels, saves money in the vehicle production and increases vehicle fuel mileage.
He also addressed some of the downsides of run-flat tires:
c The rough ride that drivers complained about in the past has been rectified with a thinner sidewall design where now the ride capabilities of a run-flat product is very near that of a regular tire.
c The low tread life of run-flats is comparable with other OE high-performance tires, which don't carry a mileage warranty, Mr. Welty said. He noted that so far performance vehicles are being fitted with run-flats; if these vehicles were fitted with regular OE tires, you'd still see rapid wear because they're performance tires. You have to give up something to get something.
c The cost of a run-flat tire is now not much more than that of a standard OE tire, Mr. Welty said, noting that the replacement tire is where customers start saving a little money.
We're seeing a bigger growth in that marketplace. So my thought is embrace the technology, learn as much as you can about it so when your customer comes in and wants to buy a set of tires, they're not afraid of that run-flat product, Mr. Welty told dealers.
The only difference in a run-flat tire is that little insert of rubber in the sidewall. The tread compound is the same. Many of the tread designs are the same. It's almost the exact same tire with one or two little differences that make it that way.
He also warned tire dealers not to acquiesce to a customer's desire to replace run-flats with regular tires.
Bridgestone recommends do not replace run-flat tires with standard tires, even though they will fit on the rims. We recommend not doing that for several reasons, he said, with liability being one of them.
Bridgestone's policy is that run-flats can be repaired like any other tire from the inside, he said, but a repair does void the tire's speed rating.
When asked about certain car makers warning dealers to not repair run-flats, Mr. Welty said, If BMW says don't repair it, we'll say not repair it. But as a tire manufacturer, we say a run-flat is repairable, just like any other tire. If it has not been run without air and it's not damaged, it can be repaired.
Performance features differ among all-season, summer and winter tires.
One thing that is sometimes misunderstood in the industry is that most summer tires are better in wet and dry than typical all-season tires, said Bob Liu, performance tire manager for Continental Tire the Americas L.L.C. Part of that is the nomenclature we use in the industry.... Summer tires are a great fit for best overall performance in dry and wet and (summer tire customers) are willing to sacrifice snow and ice and some wear....
For some consumers that live in warm climates, it's suitable for them,
Meanwhile, winter tires have better performance in snow and wet than all-season tires, he said, however drivers using winter tires sacrifice dry road handling and performance.
The all-season tire is a very good product and fits a large number of consumers. But if you use a combination of summer and winter tires, you get the best overall performance in dry, wet and winter, he told dealers. The sacrifice that is typically made is some wear and performance.
In the end, it's really understanding the consumer needs and their willingness to use summer and winter tires in different parts of the seasons.