UHP Tire Market: Are You Ready


Photo: Hyundai

Spring is finally here and summer is near. The tire industry is geared up to sell tires for the season and hopefully a lot of them will be the more profitable high performance tires. However, there is some confusion in the industry and many ask, “What is the definition of the high performance market today?”

Good question. In the early ‘90s, a high performance tire was defined as having a speed rating of H or higher and a lower profile – we all knew a 195/75R14 wasn’t a high performance tire. However, a lower profile sometimes only meant a 65 series or 60 series tire – some of you will remember 205/65R15 V speed rated tires fitted to Mercedes-Benz and BMW, and 225/60R15 V and Z speed rated tires fitted to BMW and the Ford Mustang.

Progressing through the ‘90s and entering the new millennium, high performance tires got more exotic with lower profiles, and larger wheel diameters. Some European high performance cars came with 18” 35 series tires… and we said, “Wow!” In both cases above, the vehicle also helped to define the tire – “high performance tires” were fitted to “high performance cars.”

The family car

Now, in 2014, “family sedans” are fitted with 17”, 18”, 19”, and 20” tires, with V speed ratings and profiles of 55 series or lower. Confused? Well look at your consumers. Some are in their late forties or early fifties with higher disposable income – the prime consumer for many tire re-sellers. They may be confused. They drive a four-door family sedan and it needs tires – 45 series, V speed rated 18” tires. Look at your sales of 225/45R18 and 235/45R18 – these two sizes have growing demand.

This consumer asks, “High performance V speed rated tires on my car? I don’t need them. I never drive that fast! My car is just a four-door sedan, not a sports car!” A key step in the selling process is explaining the value of a high performance tire to the consumer.

Many four-cylinder, four-door family sedans of today are more powerful than some performance cars of the ‘90s… remember when 225 was a lot of horsepower? So, this four-cylinder, four-door family sedan is as fast as some performance cars from the ‘90s, is lighter, and is being driven at higher speeds on highways with more traffic.

Benefiting from better tires

High performance tires provide notable benefits, many safety related. The stiffer sidewall and shoulder, enhanced by the lower profile, provides improved stability and steering response at any speed – even at 100 km/hr. It maintains the shape of the tires contact patch, ensuring the best contact with the road for improved cornering and braking at any speed. They are designed for high-sustained operating speeds, thus allowing them to maintain better operating temperatures in the tire at highway speeds.

Why did the car manufacturer fit high performance tires to a four-door family sedan? Because they did extensive testing to match the best tire with the car and its suspension to provide the best handling, braking and ride characteristics. Simply put, it works best and contributes to the safety of the vehicle.

In 2014 you will start to see more family sedans in your service bays with 19” V speed rated 45 series or 40 series tires. Yes, 19” low profile high performance tires on family sedans. Has the world of high performance tires changed? Yes it has! Are you ready?

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