NEW YORK — Replacement market sales of light truck tires, buoyed by demand for larger rim products, grew 3.5 percent in 2018 over 2017, according to point-of-sale data gathered by data research firm GfK Group.
LT tires with rim diameters of 20 inches or more grew 17 percent by sales dollars and 20 percent by units last year, according to full-year data GfK gathered from nearly 35,000 points of sale across the U.S., the company said.
"While the U.S. tire retail market still faces challenges, GfK POS data from outlets nationwide points to important opportunities in a few key segments of the marketplace," GfK said.
The LT segment also showed gains in units and dollars for 17-, 18- and 20-inch tires, but 16-inch tire sales fell sharply, according to GfK.
The 2018 gains followed a 3.1-percent decrease in the LT market in 2017, the company said. They represent the broader industry trend toward larger rim sizes in both the LT and passenger tire market, it said.
"In addition, GfK's data shows that some tires rated for higher speeds — and commanding higher prices — are also enjoying unexpected unit surges," it said.
The GfK data differ significantly from the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA) shipment figures, which showed only marginal growth in 2018 versus 2017 to 31.6 million units.
The USTMA forecasts that replacement LT tire shipments should increase 0.8 percent (300,000 units) in 2019 over 2018.
GfK's data on LT tire sales echo a broader industry trend toward purchases of larger rim sizes, the market data firm said. Among passenger and SUV (collectively known as "P-Metric") tires, for example, larger sizes (19-, 20- and 20-plus inch diameters) registered unit and dollar growth, GfK said, while tires of 16-inch rim diameters and smaller declined.
"At a time when growth can be hard to come by, it is essential that tire manufacturers and dealers have the data they need to make smarter decisions," Neil Portnoy, managing director of GfK's POS Tracking (Tires) team in the U.S., said.
"Identifying the opportunities that matter has never been more important — whether that means focusing on light truck models, or making sure your prices and promotions are giving you an edge over competitors."