Light Trucks: Beyond the Obvious

Light Trucks: Beyond the Obvious
Surprise! The Buick Encore is considered a “light truck” in sales data. (Photo: GM)

There’s more to the light truck tire market than meets the eye.

Automobile manufacturers’ sales data is broken into two categories: passenger cars and light trucks. Some samples from the light truck category are Acura RDX, Audi Q3, BMW X1, Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax, Dodge Journey, Ford Escape, Honda HR-V and Jeep Renegade. I have only highlighted small SUVs and CUVs, the smallest from each manufacturer and yes, they are classified as light trucks. Surprised? Pick-up trucks and commercial vans are only some of the vehicles in the light truck category.

National sales data to May 2017 shows the light truck category up 8.5% and the passenger car category down -2.5%. 2016 = Light Truck + 8.8% / Passenger Car -7.6%; 2015 = Light Truck + 8.8% / Passenger Car -6.3% (Light Truck had same growth two years in a row) and 2014 = Light Truck + 11% / Passenger Car flat.

More vehicles from the light truck category are coming to your service bays. These vehicles tend to be heavier than passenger cars. Many are 4×4 or AWD with two differentials adding more weight. They have a higher centre of gravity, increasing cornering loads on tires, and many other factors that contribute to tire wear. Light trucks wear tires faster than passenger cars. More light trucks in your service bays should equal more sales dollars.

Opportunities in LT

There is a huge opportunity in the light truck category. Be prepared to convert the opportunity into sales dollars and profits. If you are in a boat on a lake teeming with fish, there is a great opportunity to catch fish. However, you must have the right bait, the right hook and a fishing rod to convert the opportunity into dinner.

As a tire retailer, the right tire, the right equipment, the right service level, the right store environment and the right sales skills will convert the opportunity into sales dollars and profits.

Vehicles in the light truck category may use tire sizes also fitted to passenger cars. However, they may be of different construction and you, the tire retailer, the tire professional, must know the difference and how to explain this to the consumer.

The current Honda Civic uses 215/55R16 93H and both Ford Transit Connect and Ram ProMaster City small commercial vans use the same size, but a different construction, 215/55R16 97H XL. The small commercial vans require “extra load” and this may cost more. Be prepared to explain the technical and safety requirement for the extra load so that you can sell the right tire.

Vehicle use makes a difference

Within the light truck category, vehicles are used for different purposes. A pick-up truck is used as a family car, and the same model is used as a work truck. Both use the same tire size but need different characteristics to satisfy the consumer–the family car pick-up wants quiet, comfortable and long life, while the work truck wants durability and traction for worksite conditions.

This continues a regular theme in my columns–know your market, know your consumer, know the products and stock the right products. Been to a shoe store recently? There are many options in your size–dress shoes, casual shoes, running shoes, hiking shoes etc. The sales person will ask what you are looking for in a shoe and then recommend the best options in their stock.

A tire is a far more technical and complicated product than a shoe. Think about this and equip yourself, your team and your store to succeed.

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