Industry Insight: The Evolution of the Tire

Industry Insight: The Evolution of the Tire
Peter-James Gregory is President of Atlas Tire Wholesale.

Passenger tires are changing. Are you keeping pace?

Within the consumer tire category, there are three sub-categories— passenger tires, light truck tires and special trailer.

Light truck tires have LT at the start of the size description—LT245/75R16, or in the case of Euro Commercial they have a C directly after the wheel size— 235/65R16C. Special trailer tires usually have ST at the start of the size description—ST225/75R15, except in some older and small bias sizes—5.30- 12. Passenger tires are P-Metric or Euro-Metric—P205/55R16 89H or 205/55R16 91H.

The above seems simple, until you look at the various fitments for passenger tires. Today, passenger tires are fitted to cars and minivans, as well as to Crossover Utility Vehicles (CUVs), Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs), pick-up trucks, and some cargo vans.

Within the automobile industry, many SUVs are classified as “light trucks,” and all pick-up trucks and cargo vans are classified as “light trucks.” In the eyes of the consumer they are simply trucks. Some examples of passenger tires fitted to light trucks include: P275/55R20 111S – Chevrolet Tahoe SUV 265/70R17 115T – Ford F-150 pick-up P275/60R20 114S – Ram 1500 pick-up P245/70R17 108S – GMC Savana 1500 cargo van<2014

Large demand
Because of their wide use as OE across various types of vehicles – cars, CUVs, SUVs, pick-up trucks and cargo vans – passenger tires account for the largest demand in the consumer tire sector. If you retail consumer tires, passenger tires will be a large part of your business.

Within the tire industry, passenger tires have generated the most changes – tire sizes, speed ratings, SKU proliferation etc. Every year the change continues; passenger tires continue to evolve and the retailer must keep pace with the evolution to succeed.

It wasn’t that long ago that a 17” tire was considered “sporty,” or “a tuner size,” or “a plus application” etc. Well, in the period 2010 to 2016 the demand at OE for 17” and up tires doubled, and 17” and up now constitutes the majority of OE fitments for North America. In addition, data from the tire manufacturers shows that for 2017 OE fitments, 18” and up tires will constitute approximately 50 percent, yes, 50 percent of the new vehicles being built in 2017. That means they will have 18”, 19”, 20”, 21” and 22” tires.

Planning for the future
Based on the usual replacement demand curve, you will see growing volumes of these 2017 vehicles in your shop needing replacement tires through 2019, 2020 and beyond. However, while this future will bring dramatically increased demand for 18” and up replacement, 18” and up is also a reality today.

In fact, 18”, 19”, 20”, 21” and 22” tires have been part of the 17” and up aggressive growth curve that started in 2010. Vehicles equipped with 18”, 19”, 20”, 21” and 22” tires are coming into your shops today, and their numbers have been steadily growing over the past few years.

Many of these high wheel diameter vehicles are not exotics. A 2015 GMC Yukon Denali with P285/45R22 110H is a big body on frame SUV. Nice, but not exotic. A 2012 Ford Edge Sport with P265/40R22 105W XL is a “sporty” SUV but not exotic. There are many more examples, including minivans equipped with 18”, 19”, 20” and 21” tires.

Recently, I visited a shop and the owner commented that he has to start looking for a new tire changer because his current tire changer can only handle up to 20” wheels. Act now! Change is not just coming over the horizon… change is already here!

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