OE Fitments: The New Normal

The 2015 Ford Explorer - not your traditional High Performance tire customer. (photo: Ford)

The 2015 Ford Explorer – not your traditional High Performance tire customer. (photo: Ford)

High Performance tires are no longer exclusively for the high performance crowd.

I think the majority would agree that a High Performance tire has a speed rating of “H” or higher. Also, most would think about tires with larger wheel diameters, and lower aspect ratios, as High Performance. Using these parameters, you will see why High Performance is the new normal.

Consider, for example, that a popular fitment on both the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla is P205/55R16 89H, and that both cars are available with optional P215/45R17 tires – 87V for the Civic, and 87W for the Corolla.

If you think the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla are unique, as far as small sedans with High Performance OE tires goes, check out the Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte.

High Performance stats

Here is an interesting statistic: Since 2013, 80% of the OE fitments for vehicles sold in North America have been 17 inches and above. Fourteen inches is so minuscule it doesn’t even amount to 1%, 15 inches is less than 10%, and 16 inches is just over 10%.

Since 2012, 50% of the OE fitments have been H speed rated or above.

In 2014, 45% of the replacement market was 17 inches and up. Furthermore, 25% of the tires were H speed rated or higher. Rest assured, these percentages will continue to increase.

Here’s another interesting statistic: In 2014, 40% of the OE fitments in North America were 18 inches and up – yes, 18 – 21 inches. This covers cars, SUVs, CUVs and light trucks. Have you looked at a Ford Explorer recently? The base tire is P245/60R18 104H and the option is P255/50R20 104H. Not to be disparaging, but this is not a high performance SUV. This is a Ford Explorer – marketed as a great family vehicle.

Power and performance

Why is this happening at the OE level? Why do these vehicles need High Performance tires? Well, there are many things to consider. Cars today are lighter and more powerful than their predecessors. In fact, there are four cylinder engines today with more horsepower than a V8 of 12 years ago.

Remember that 2003 Mustang GT with the first generation 4.6L V8? It boasted 260 hp, and the base V6 Mustang had 190 hp. Contrast that with a 2015 Kia Optima SX Turbo with an output of 274 hp from a turbo four cylinder. The LX model has a 192-hp four cylinder.

High Performance tires are being used at the OE level to provide improved handling and braking capabilities, along with lower operating temperatures at sustained highway speeds. It is a proven fact – higher speed ratings produce better steering response, handling and braking at any speed. This is a safety issue, and as tire professionals we must pay attention.

Addressing the speed question

People say, “I don’t drive fast. I don’t need a high speed rating.” Have you driven on a 400-series highway recently? How much traffic is moving at 100 km/hr? Even the “little old lady from Pasadena” is doing a buck twenty, or more.

Do you think these new vehicles are a few years away from needing replacement tires? That may be true, but new vehicles also need winter tires, which means you will see some of them in your shop the first year they are on the road.

High Performance is the new normal. Plan your inventory accordingly so that you have the right tires to meet your consumers’ demands.

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