WASHINGTON — Has demand for high-performance tires in the U.S. peaked?
Depending on how one looks at the data: Yes. And No.
If H-rated tires are included in the mix, then the data show that demand has plateaued at both the OE and replacement market levels.
If one considers the ultra-high-performance (UHP) segment — V-rated and higher — then the answer is less clear, with shipments of those tires continuing to increase, albeit at a slower pace than in years past, according to Tire Business' analysis of U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA) and other available data.
In 2020, aftermarket shipments of high-performance tires (those with speed ratings of H or higher) fell 11.5% from 2019 but still topped 100 million units for a second straight year, according to the USTMA data.
The dip in demand for high-performance tires was slightly more severe than that for replacement market passenger tire shipments overall (down 8.6%), dropping the performance share of the aftermarket to 49.4% from 51% in 2019, the USTMA data shows.
Shipments declined by double-digits in all three high-performance categories (H, V and Z speed ratings), according to Tire Business' analysis of the available data.
The decline lends weight to observations by a number of tire companies that aftermarket demand last year skewed more heavily to non-Tier 1 brands during the economic downturn.
Looking ahead, one also must consider the fundamental question of just what constitutes a "performance" tire. The growing acceptance and emergence of electric vehicles (EVs) is creating an entirely new class of tires that draw on classic "performance" tire characteristics while also delivering lower rolling resistance and additional carrying capacity.