AKRON — Ultra-high-performance (UHP) tires make up about 22% to 23% of fitments on new U.S.-built vehicles, but most dealers contacted by Tire Business for this article said their sales of UHP tires are much smaller.
"The market is so weird. Some days you sell three sets of high-performance tires, sometimes you go weeks. A majority of it is the lower end (Tier 3-4 brands)," said Daniel Greenberg, vice president of City Tire Co. Inc. a Springfield, Mass.-based dealership with nine locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
He estimated UHP tires make up less than 10% of the dealership's sales. Nationwide the percentage is closer to 21% or 22%, according to U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association data.
"Normally with the high-performance market, you really have to break it up into two segments," he said.
"The first segment is the lower-end 'generic' high-performance market, i.e. the people who have taken little cars to put wider wheels on them and they want that look of high performance.
"The problem there is when they find out how much money they have to spend for a premium tire in that market, it's too much for them. So then they go into the generics," Mr. Greenberg said.
U.S.-based vehicle makers outfit roughly one in four new cars with high-performance (V- or Z-rated) tires and wheels, or offer them as an option package. In some cases,the vehicle's original owner may not have to replace the tires if they last the length of the lease.
But when they do have to replace OE tires, or the second owner has to replace them, price can be an extenuating factor, according to some dealers. Due to the designs of many vehicles, there is no choice in tire sizes and profiles.
"When people go to replace them, then they have to make a decision. 'Do I want to put an OE-level tire on it and spend $180 a tire or do I want to put a generic on it and spend $90 a tire?'" Mr. Greenberg said.
Even SUVs, CUVs and light trucks can come with a high-performance package option, a trend that is growing, according to Mr. Greenberg.
"My gut tells me the OE manufacturers will continue to try to dress up their lower-priced models. And the easiest way to dress up a car is to put a shiny wheel on it and it is low profile. That's the easiest way. That's the first thing a consumer is going to look at," he said.
"Most of the time the original owner of these (SUV vehicles), in most cases, replace it with a similar tire because they can afford it. ... Second and third owners might replace the high-performance application with a Tier 3 or Tier 4 tire," he said.
About 10% to 15% of Kenwood Tire & Auto Service's sales consist of V-rated and higher tires.
"My benchmark high performance tire would be the Continental DWS06 or the Michelin A/S3+. Those are the two we sell the most of," Spencer Carruthers, owner of West Bridgewater, Mass.-based Kenwood Tire, said.