Winter tire sales are weather dependent, and that means back-to-back lackluster winter seasons are leaving tire dealers, and tire manufacturers, wanting more.
“Warmer weather results in fewer conversations between dealers and drivers about winter tires, which means fewer selling opportunities,” says Hans Dyhrman, director of marketing for Nokian Tires Inc.
TBC Brands LLC is one company hoping for a turnaround for the 2017-2018 season, as its Sumitomo brand enters the winter tire market for the first time.
“Winter tires are a niche within the global tire industry, but there is still room for growth within the market, as they accounted for $19.3 billion in worldwide tire sales,” says Jon Vance, vice president of product marketing for TBC Brands.
“Some have projected sales to continue to grow despite the modest price increase in raw materials.”
Others aren’t as optimistic. Travis Roffler, director of marketing for Continental Tire the Americas LLC says, “We don’t see it growing.” He estimates the market accounts for 6 million to 8 million tires in the U.S.
Pirelli Tire North America Inc. says the winter tire market was down in 2016, while Nexen Tire America Inc. calls it flat.Michael Mathis, president of Atturo Tire Corp., is blunt. “I believe the winter tire market in the U.S. is constantly shrinking. Even in our hometown of Chicago where we see a solid three months of cold temperatures, very few vehicles on the road have a snow tire.”
He attributes that to a pair of factors. “First, tire dealers are increasingly timid in advising drivers about the need for a winter tire that goes beyond snow and ice traction. Second, the performance of all-season tires has been improving, making them legitimately more suitable for the moderate weather climates across the center of the country,” Mathis says.
“It remains our opinion that the safest and best performing tire for cold weather environments is a true winter tire. Anything else is a compromise in both safety and performance.”
Brandon Stotsenburg, vice president of automotive for American Kenda Rubber Industrial Co. Ltd., says government regulations in Canada have driven growth in the winter tire market there, whereas “the U.S. market has been relatively flat with predictable sales in key Snowbelt areas.”Stotsenburg says it’s harder to distinguish a good-better-best option in winter tires, “with the market gravitating more toward good or best.” New premium vehicles distinctly benefit from the switch from summer to winter high performance tires. Those “best” tires have specific technologies desired by the consumer in winter. “The second segment is really focused on price and value with tires meeting the three-peak snowflake criteria at an entry level price point,” Stotsenburg says.
The bright side of the equation, says Dyhrman from Nokian, is “the launch of new products and technologies provide new opportunities for dealers to discuss and educate the importance of winter tires with customers.”
Some companies aren’t quite ready to dish out the details on the new winter tires yet to come in 2017. Look for a new product from Falken Tire Corp. later this year.When it comes to your inventory strategy, knowing what tires will be available for the 2017-2018 season is key. Modern Tire Dealer offers this comprehensive product roundup, plus insight from the manufacturers of what makes their winter tire the best option for your dealership.
Here are the winter tires manufacturers will be selling and marketing next season.
Atturo Tire Corp.: This year will be Atturo’s first full season of winter production with 21 sizes in the AW730 and AW730 ICE. With an optimized combination of silica based compound, tread design and the tuned winter sipes, the AW730 presents a tremendous value in cold weather safety, performance and handling. The size range will focus on SUVs and crossovers offering a mix of common and unique sizes.Bridgestone Americas Inc.: The Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2 tire is designed to give drivers impressive control in winter driving conditions. Engineered with a next-generation multi-cell compound that dispels water from the surface of ice, the Blizzak DM-V2 tire combats slippage and offers improved braking. Additionally, the tire’s tread pattern is designed with more block edges, providing more snow-on-snow traction and achieving better road grip. Its contact patch is optimized to disperse pressure uniformly, offering greater stability on ice, slush and packed snow. Currently available in 56 sizes, the Blizzak DM-V2 tire fits the most popular SUVs, CUVs and pickup truc ks on the road today.
Continental Tire the Americas LLC: The Continental brand features the WinterContact SI, with patented PolarPlus+ technology for grip. That same technology reduces braking distance in wet, snow and ice by keeping the tread pliable in sub-zero temperatures. Continental’s +Silane also enhances grip on slippery surfaces like wet-, snow- and ice-covered roads. Traction grooves and increased pattern edges provide improved snow performance while the consumer friendly Alignment Verification System visually alerts the driver to vehicle misalignment allowing a correction before the tires are ruined. The General brand by Continental includes the Grabber Arctic and the Grabber Arctic LT, and both feature a symmetric, studdable tread pattern with a durable compound and Duragen technology for stability and even wear, among other qualities.Giti Tire (USA) Ltd.: The GT Radial Champiro WinterPro HP is a studless winter tire developed for drivers who want to retain the handling and precision of their high and ultra-high performance vehicles during winter. The asymmetric tread design provides performance in varied winter conditions. Three wide circumferential tread grooves help evacuate water, slush and packed snow to maintain maximum contact with the road. A lateral cross-cut groove provides more biting angles for improved snow and ice grip, and effectively disperses water and slush. The sunflower oil enriched compound increases low temperature traction. The GT Radial WinterPro HP is available in 24 sizes, 40 to 65 series, 16- to 19-inches.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.: In 2017, the Dunlop Winter Maxx line will feature a new improved tread design with broader contact area and increased siping with the Winter Maxx 02 line.
This new improved line builds on the strong performance of this studless Winter Maxx line and is available in sizes for a broad range of passenger vehicles and CUVs. It complements the Winter Maxx SJ8 line launched in 2015.Hankook Tire America Corp.: The Hankook Winter i*cept evo2 (W320) is one of Hankook’s flagship ultra-high performance winter tires.
The dedicated winter tire is constructed out of a high-grip silica compound featuring a unique asymmetrical tire pattern for optimized driving in all winter conditions. The lateral ice pick-shaped grooves on the tire have a scratching effect on the road, and when coupled with a wider shoulder block, the Winter i*cept evo2 tire provides superior handling and performance compared to conventional tires.
Small ice grip slits are incorporated into the lateral block design for enhanced cornering performance, increasing flexibility and providing an optimized contact area. The tire’s jointless full-cover reinforced belt improves the tire’s high-speed stability and maximizes road contact for improved handling. The product is designed to exhibit excellent braking power and handling on snow or ice-covered roads, ensuring a safer driving experience in the winter.Michelin North America Inc.: Michelin’s main winter tire offering comes in the X-Ice product lines (X-Ice 3 and Latitude X-Ice 2) that cover passenger cars, minivans, SUVs, CUVs and pickup trucks.
Both tires master cold weather performance for consumers who battle severe winter conditions. Technology includes a special Flex-Ice tread compound that remains flexible in extreme cold temperatures along with Micro Pump and Cross Z sipe technology that generate gripping traction and stability on ice and snow. The tires also feature unique Max Touch Construction that equalizes the forces within the contact patch from normal braking, acceleration and cornering. Michelin provides a unique mileage warranty for both winter products for consumers.
Nexen Tire America Inc.: Winguard Winspike tires are constructed to allow studs that dig into snow or ice for better traction. The optimized arrangement of sipes and block rigidity maximize handling and traction on ice in combination with the V-shaped tread pattern.Noise is addressed by the calculated placement of 12 multi random stud lines.
Nokian Tyres Inc.: The new generation of Nokian’s flagship product will be available this fall — the Hakkapeliitta 9 and Hakkapeliitta 9 SUV. They feature two designs of studs on the tire for use during specific driving conditions, such as braking or accelerating and cornering, ensuring optimal traction in all winter conditions.
The tire utilizes a brand new tread pattern, tire structure and eco-friendly winter tread compound, plus self-locking 3D sipes for steering responsiveness and improved handling. Boosters provide improved snow grip and Nokian’s patented driving safety indicator shows remaining tread to consumers. The Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 covers 52 sizes from 14 to 20 inches. The Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 SUV comes in 51 sizes from 16 to 21 inches.
Omni United (S) Pte. Ltd.: The RW 5 is a snow and ice tire from the Radar winter family. This range has been designed for compact and mid-size cars as well as SUVs. It delivers good grip in wet, snow and slush conditions, which the company says makes it a good pick for balanced performance in all winter conditions.It features a directional, V-shaped tread pattern with two wide main grooves, a sawtooth-shaped design on the tread, and an advanced silica tread compound. The company’s winter lineup also includes the RW 5 Ice and RW 5 Ice Lock for passenger cars. Omni United’s among the tire manufacturers to market a four-season tire for cars and SUVs; the Dimax 4 Season features the three peak mountain snowflake symbol.
Pirelli Tire North America Inc.: The result of its developments with original equipment manufacturers, the Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 is a tire dedicated to high-end premium vehicles.
Pirelli designs tires to enhance the features of each vehicle model and maximize its performance. The Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 has been developed taking into account the evolution of modern vehicles, in order to achieve maximum safety, control and performance in all winter conditions. The product is available with the latest Pirelli technologies including run on flat, the noise canceling system and seal inside.
Pirelli’s winter lineup also includes the Scorpion winter tire, designed for SUVs and CUVs.TBC Brands LLC: The Sumitomo Ice Edge is the first ever winter tire line for the Sumitomo brand. This studdable tire features 57 progressive passenger, SUV and CUV sizes, ranging from 14 inches to 20 inches. The Ice Edge features the latest in Sumitomo precision engineering including the unique 3D interlocking siping technology, which promotes reduced tread deformation and superior grip while providing a smooth ride. This tire also has optimum stud hole allocation across the tread face, which complies with all local regulations in Canada.
Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp.: Designed for tough winter conditions, the Observe G3-Ice from Toyo combines performance with driving comfort. It is available to order in more than 120 SKUs ranging from 13 inches to 22 inches with fitments for passenger cars, CUVs, SUVs and light trucks.
Features include Toyo’s exclusive microbit technology, which uses ground walnut shells to dig and bite into snow and ice for better traction.
For areas that experience severe winters, the Observe G3-Ice can be studded for added traction on ice and compacted snow. Optimized stud hole placement delivers better traction and a quieter ride with fewer studs.Yokohama Tire Corp.: Yokohama’s newest product in the segment, arriving in 2017, is the BluEarth Winter V905 high performance winter tire. The BluEarth Winter V905 improves upon the Consumer Reports recommended W.drive V905 from 2016.
The new BluEarth Winter V905 features a more fuel efficient orange oil and silica compound for low temperature flexibility without sacrificing higher temperature stability or gas mileage.
It also features a blend of triple 3D adaptive sipes and 2D sipes for maximized contact patch rigidity and optimal grip. Pick me! Pick me!
Choosing between the tires offered by these 14 companies is another challenge to your inventory management. So we asked the manufacturers to pick one trait that makes their winter tire your best choice.
Atturo: The major distinguishing characteristic of the AW730 is our goal to create a product where dealers can actually earn a profit. The targeted sizes and aggressive price points will yield an outsized margin for the savvy Atturo dealer.Bridgestone: The Blizzak DM-V2 tire is known for its impressive performance on ice, and this is a direct result of the tire’s hydrophilic, or water-loving, multi-cell compound.
The multi-cell compound from Bridgestone uses millions of microscopic pores to attract and remove the thin layer of water from the surface of ice, delivering enhanced grip. It also combats slippage and improves braking.
Continental: The highlight of the WinterContact SI is its PolarPlus+ technology. As for the General Grabber Arctic, the tire offers both comfort and durability. The Grabber Arctic LT is designed to carry the load.
Giti: “One highlight that makes the GT Radial Champiro WinterPro HP a good choice for dealers is that it comes in the higher H and V speed ratings and performance sizes needed for today’s newer performance sedans and coupes,” says Thomas Okihisa, senior product marketing manager for Giti Tire USA.Goodyear: The Dunlop Winter Maxx 02 is priced in the mid-tier, making it a go-to line for many consumers looking for an all-around great winter tire.
Hankook: In addition to its driving performance, the Winter i*cept evo2 offers drivers the options of 44 sizes, ensuring consumers have access to the right size tire for their needs.
Michelin: The X-Ice product lines offer large market coverage with a winter tire that is long lasting and backed by a mileage warranty to provide lasting winter performance season after season.
Nexen: The Winguard Winspike covers a huge range of sizes and fitments, from passenger sedans, CUVs and SUVs, light trucks and even European delivery vans like the Ford Transit.
Nokian: So many innovative technologies working together, from rubber compound to tread pattern, is what makes the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 a great choice for dealers. It’s a completely new take on the studded tire and will be the first tire to feature the functional stud concept. The selling point is that the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 goes where you expect it to go even in wintry conditions. Not to mention, Nokian’s 80-plus years of experience developing winter tires gives the brand credibility when selling to the consumer.Omni United: The RW 5 offers enhanced winter traction, safety with a shorter braking distance, and good performance in all winter conditions. The RW 5 Ice promises driving confidence in icy conditions, and the RW 5 Ice Lock is a studdable option for increased ice traction.
The Dimax 4 Season tire offers winter performance with run-flat tire options for cars and SUVs, plus speed ratings up to W.
Pirelli: The Sottozero 3 stands out thanks to the huge number of homologations — more than 150. It does the work of more than one tire with fitments on premium and prestige car brands like Alfa Romeo, Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Maserati, McLaren, Mercedes, Mini, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Volkswagen and Volvo. The Scorpion winter tire is following behind closely, with more than 90 fitments on luxury CUVs and SUVs.
TBC: In addition to outstanding warranty protection, the Ice Edge from Sumitomo compliments with competitive pricing, and the ability to deliver optimum winter performance with or without studs.
Toyo: What makes the Observe G3-Ice stand out from the competition is the extensive size lineup. This studdable winter tire is available to order in over 120 SKUs ranging from 13 inches to 22 inches with fitments for passenger cars, CUVs, SUVs and light trucks.Yokohama: Our latest proprietary compound mixes micro-silica with orange oil for performance across all winter elements and temperatures. This compound helps the BluEarth Winter V905 achieve everything a consumer wants in a performance winter tire including: confident handling on ice, snow, slush and wet winter roads plus improved fuel efficiency and longer tread life to maximize value. ■
Two brands focus on the Canadian market
For the Kumho and BFGoodrich brands, the focus is on the winter tire market north of the border. Kumho Tire Canada Inc. introduced two new winter tires to its lineup a year ago — the WinterCraft WP71 and the WinterCraft SUV Ice WS31. Those additions are part of a portfolio of seven winter tires from Kumho, plus two more products that are winter rated and promoted for year-round use.The WinterCraft WP71 is a studless, ultra-high performance winter tire that showcases a new contour design that provides significant enhancements to wet performance, dry handling and tread wear. It features a uniform block design that delivers grip and stable cornering for driving in all winter conditions, and the honeycomb three-dimensional sipes maximize interlocking between tread blocks for improved traction on snowy and icy roads. The WinterCraft WP71 is offered in 42 sizes from 16 inches to 19 inches.
The WinterCraft SUV Ice WS31 is a studdable tire for SUV fitments. It features an optimal stud arrangement in a 20-line stud hole array, and uses the latest compound mixing technology to ensure maximum ice control performance. The asymmetrical sipes provide improved traction and braking performance on ice and snow.Michelin Tire North America Inc. is introducing the BFGoodrich Winter T/A KSI tire in 2017 in Canada. The first phase of the launch includes 32 sizes covering 66% of the Canadian market. Eight more sizes of the Tier 2 tire will be added in August 2018, bringing its total market coverage to 77%.
The T/A KSI tire is designed for passenger cars and CUVS, and comes with a T speed rating. Deliveries will begin in August. Look for a report from the tire’s launch in the April edition of Modern Tire Dealer.
A tire destined for the worst of winter weather
Nokian Tyres plc has created a super-sized new tire for the toughest winter conditions on the planet. It bears the company’s flagship product name, but the Hakkapeliitta 44 is much bigger than anything else in the winter tire lineup.The Hakkapeliitta 44 was designed for an Icelandic vehicle company that converts four-wheel drive vehicles to drive in Antarctica. Arctic Trucks outfits vehicles in glacial regions. The tire weighs about 154 pounds and is 3 feet across. It’s studdable, and production is beginning this year in size LT475/70 R17. It’s available by special order through Nokian Tyres North America.
The midsection of the tread pattern features sharp V-shaped angles, which were designed to help clean the grooves of slush and snow. The tread’s width and the tire’s maximal airspace ensure it can handle soft surfaces. It features a special Nokian Polar Expedition tread compound that combines winter grip with durability in extreme winter conditions.Where metal-studded tires are legal and where they are not
According to data compiled by the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), six states had no restrictions on the use of metal-studded snow tires for passenger cars as of October 2016. They are Colorado, Kentucky, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Vermont and Wyoming.
Eleven states and the District of Columbia prohibit metal-studded snow tires entirely: Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Texas and Wisconsin.
Maryland allows metal-studded snow tires in five counties only. Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Rhode Island and Texas prohibit metal studs but allow rubber studs. In Georgia, metal-studded snow tires can only be used in snow and ice conditions. North Carolina and South Carolina allow metal studs “if not projected more than 1/16 inch when compressed.”In the remaining 29 states, metal-studded tires are permitted within certain time frames. The RMA recommends consulting the state or local Department of Transportation office for the most current information on the legality of studded snow tires.