The Experts Agree: Winter Tires are More Important than Ever
“The reality is there is no ‘perfect’ tire for all vehicles, roads, climate and weather conditions.”
This quote neatly summarizes the importance of the winter tire market in the United States. The U.S. is an enormous market, encompassing 330 million people and 9 climate zones across 50 states. Tire options are as diverse as the nation itself, making it difficult for consumers to stay completely informed on seasonal tire trends and road safety. Automotive stakeholders tend to agree on the importance of winter tires, as well as the growth trajectory of the winter tire industry.
One of the concerns we frequently hear at InvenTire is, “don’t all-weather tires eventually make winter tires obsolete?” The answer to this objection is a resounding no. According to Steven Liu, senior director of proprietary brands at American Tire Distributors Inc., improving the cold-weather performance of all-weather tires would sacrifice other performance attributes during warmer temperatures.
“The reality is, in the current state, the balance is swinging wider than ever before,” says Liu. “Not everyone will be completely satisfied with the performance of an all-weather tire, thus pushing the true winter technology further to addressing specific needs at the regional level.” As winter tire technology improves, so does the value proposition of owning two sets of seasonal tires.
Regional variations are critical to understanding consumer preferences. Overall demand for winter tires is steadily increasing in the U.S. according to several respondents.
“As end consumers become more and more educated on the benefits of winter tires, we’ve noticed a steady increase in winter tire demand year-over-year in both the U.S. and across the globe,” says Terry Smouter, director of sales management for Hankook Tire America Corp.
Pirelli Tire North America Inc. has seen an uptick in demand, too. “The winter tire market is on a growth trend in 2019 in both the passenger and SUV segments,” says Vincent Unanue, senior manager, OE and product, Pirelli North America.
The availability of all-weather tires and the shift away from conventional sedans create more, not fewer, winter tire selling opportunities. “All-weather tires take away from an all-season tire versus a winter tire,” says Joe Maher, product manager for Continental Tire the Americas LLC’s passenger and winter tires in the U.S. “The consumer who’s really interested in the best winter performance buys a winter tire.”
Many respondents stressed the need to educate CUV/SUV owners. “It’s important for dealers to educate drivers on the myth that all-wheel-drive vehicles reduce the need for winter tires,” says Will Robbins, senior product manager, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC. “Cornering and braking performance in snow and ice still require the same traction from tires, whether it is a front- or rear-wheel-drive vehicle.” Consumers are gravitating toward CUVs and SUVs for the extra capabilities they believe sedans do not have, notes Abhishek Bisht, global head of new markets and channels for Apollo Tires Ltd., which owns the Vredestein brand.
At InvenTire, we are on a mission to improve road safety through consumer education. When consumers move to colder climates from warmer ones, they might not even know what a winter tire is! Optimizing a seasonal tire storage program is the best way to leverage future growth of the winter tire industry, while educating your customers about the benefits of driving with season-appropriate tires. If your dealership, tire store, or organization is interested in establishing a seasonal tire storage program or improving your existing one, we can help.
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