SKU Proliferation – Can You Handle It?


The right wheel/tire combination can do wonders to the appearance of most vehicles.

If the ever-growing number of SKUs has you wondering how you’re going to keep up with demand, don’t worry. Help is on the way.

If you’ve been in the tire industry for a decade or more, you’ve no doubt noticed that SKUs seem to be multi­plying like proverbial bunnies. A recent market survey shows just how quickly their numbers are growing.

In 2002, 464 sizes were available on the market. By 2010 that number rose to 649 – a 40% increase. In 2002, the top 10 sizes, by popular­ity, covered 43% of the fitments on the market. By 2010 the top ten sizes only covered 38%.

Consider also that in 2002, 15% of the vehicles produced in the USA and Canada were fitted with OE tires in the 17-inch or greater size range. By 2010, that number rose to 57%.

Size vs. SKU

But wait, there’s more! The numbers mentioned above tell us about the growth in the number of sizes. But that doesn’t give us the whole picture be­cause each size can have multiple SKUs – P205/55R16 89S, P205/55R16 89H, 205/55R16 91H, etc. And if that weren’t enough, this can be further fragmented by summer or all-season treads and by OE homologations. As a result, some tire sizes can encompass 10 or more different SKUs.

What is driving this SKU proliferation? The main reason we’re seeing so many SKUs has to do with automobile manu­facturers and their OE requirements. Manufacturers choose certain tires for their vehicles for a number of reasons – both technical and aesthetic.

Just a tire?

A tire is no longer just a tire. On to­day’s automobiles, the tire plays a wider technical role than it did 20 years ago. Today, the tire is a very important part of a vehicle’s suspen­sion and braking system. The 17-inch low profile tire on a subcompact car makes a significant contribution to that vehicle’s stability, steering re­sponse and braking distances.

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