It’s been a slow build, but the traditional, four-door sedan — for decades the main staple of the “Big Three” auto manufacturers — has never been more out of fashion in North America than it is now.
Over the last three years, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. all announced massive retreats from car production so they could turn their attention to the CUVs, SUVs and light trucks segments, which are growing briskly.
At the same time, shipments of H-rated and above performance tires, which includes products that fall under the “high performance” and “ultra-high-performance” designations, continue to grow.
In 2018, within the U.S., shipments of H-rated-and-up P-metric and metric tires totaled 119.3 million units compared to 108.3 million units the previous year, according to Modern Tire Dealer research.
Where will UHP tires fit within a landscape dominated by CUVs and SUVs?
That’s what MTD set out to learn when it asked tire manufacturers to weigh in on the future of UHP tires in the CUV/SUV arena.
Tire maker representatives also offered advice about how independent tire dealerships that sell UHP tires can differentiate their products in an already-robust field. Responses are listed alphabetically by brand. MTD: What is your outlook for the UHP tire market, given consumers’ preference for CUVs and SUVs over sedans?
Michael Mathis, president, Atturo Tire Corp.: The modern SUV is the replacement for the performance sedan. The performance capability of a 2019 SUV rivals that of a 2009 sports sedan. We see the market for UHP tires targeted at these vehicles continuing to expand in both OE type sizes, as well as aftermarket applications, all with the aim of enhancing the ability of the vehicle.
Phil Watson, public relations manager, BFGoodrich (Michelin North America Inc.): CUVs and SUVs are being designed as sports cars, with many having paddle shifters as standard equipment. Our tires have evolved along with trends in the automotive industry. As we see consumer preference increasing for CUVs and SUVs, we’re designing our products to fit both vehicle and performance demands.
Daniel Kelly, product planner, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC: Despite a decrease in sedan sales and a market shift toward CUVs, SUVs and light trucks, the outlook for the UHP tire market is holding steady as consumer demand increases for sportier models with more power and responsiveness.Travis Roffler, director of marketing, Continental Tire the Americas LLC: The UHP market continues to grow. This is due to the fact that many of today’s most popular SUVs and CUVs are coming equipped with UHP tires from the factory. This is on top of the fact that SUVs and CUVs continue to grow in their total share of the vehicle market in the U.S. Vehicle manufacturers continue to double down on this segment, and are continuing to introduce more new SUV and CUV platforms.
Jenny Paige, product manager, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.: While there will always be sports cars and a need for traditional UHP tires, the growth in the CUV and SUV space has impacted UHP tire sizing, as it has in touring passenger tires. As CUVs and SUVs have grown in popularity, their designs have changed to provide a higher level of handling and performance, and hence the need for a sportier performance tire and higher speed rating. UHP tires, with their lower aspect ratios and greater grip and stability, have come to fill the gap for modern CUVs and SUVs. As such, the market is seeing traditional UHP tire lines extending into larger sizes to fit Lexus, Mercedes, BMW and Porsche SUV platforms. Even Audi, with the Q3, requires a 20-inch rim diameter and a Y speed rating.Tsuyoshi Johnson, product planning manager, Falken Tire Corp.: The sharp increase in consumers trending toward CUVs and smaller SUVs, in general, is real. It’s only natural that the demand for high-powered versions of CUVs/SUVs would follow. OEMs like Mercedes-Benz (AMG GLC63 and AMG GLC43) and Fiat Chrysler (Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT and Trackhawk trims) understand this trend and are offering multiple trims with higher power output.
Federal Tire Corp.: We have noticed a significant growth in every car brand’s development of high performance CUVs and SUVs. With enhanced horsepower and torque, and sporty chassis/exteriors and interiors, UHP tires are the best fit on these vehicles. There will definitely be great growth in the UHP market with the increased demand for SUVs and CUVs.
Dave Shelton, director of industry relations, Giti Tire (USA) Ltd.: Still growing in the OE, replacement, and still some in the aftermarket. Performance-minded drivers have grown accustomed to the “stick” (or grip), as well as the precision delivered by UHP tires and really do not like to give up that advantage. Note the latest CUV/SUV offerings like the Land Rover Velar have UHP OE tires — oh, and yes, 550 horsepower. Even in everyday driving situations, the control one has with tires that go, stop, and turn precisely allows for the best navigation.Terry Smouter, director of sales management, Hankook Tire America Corp.: There has recently been a lot of growth in the CUV and SUV market and we expect this to continue over the next five years. According to IHS Markit data analysis, the global SUV sales portion has shown a steady increase compared to other vehicle segments. In 2017, SUVs accounted for 39.2% of all vehicle segments and IHS predicts in 2021 it will be more than 43%. We also can see more and more SUVs and CUVs installing high performance products and this, of course, includes UHP tires. Hankook is well-aware of this trend and has been busy developing a product mix to align with this increase in SUV and CUV sales. We expect tire sizes over 18 inches, including UHP, to show a 7% growth.
Steven Liu, senior director, proprietary brands, Hercules Tire & Rubber Co.: Passenger cars remain the largest segment but are declining as the market shifts toward CUVs in the next four years. With that said, 50% of vehicles ready for their first tire replacement are either a CUV or a pickup, and it is forecasted that CUV and pickups will represent two-thirds of new vehicle sales by 2022. Traditionally, UHP tires have been categorized by speed rating. However, in the last decade, the industry has seen significant growth in W-rated sizes, which will continue as the fastest-growing segment over the next few years.Maxxis Int ernational-U.S.A.: Despite the sales decline of new sports cars and sedans recently, there are still plenty of people looking for performance for their existing vehicles. We also see the OEMs experimenting with high performance crossovers and crossover coupes, usually with large diameter UHP fitments, so we think UHP is here to stay.
Jay Lee, product planning director, Nexen Tire America Inc.: In the past, UHP tires were mostly related to sports cars or sedans. These days, as sedan sales and production decrease in the U.S., CUV/SUV vehicle segments are increasing, and so is demand for UHP in new fitments. UHP tire sales for CUV/SUV are increasing every day, which will continue in the coming years.
Steve Bourassa, director of products and pricing, Nokian Tyres plc.: Although consumer purchases are trending higher for CUVs and SUVs, there is always a need for performance and power. In recent years, there are many impressive vehicles that are categorized in CUV/SUV but are equipped with high-output engines. The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, Maserati Levante, Audi SQ5, Porsche Macan S, Lamborghini Urus and even Tesla Model X are examples of vehicles that are satisfying consumer needs for performance, while providing the space and luxury feel that comes with a vehicle of this size. Pirelli Tire N orth America Inc.: We believe there will be continued growth in the UHP segment.
Mark Pereira, manager of marketing communications, Sailun Tire Americas: The UHP market has always been a niche segment, but for those who demand the most out of their cars, UHP tires are still a must-have in any tire brand’s portfolio. The UHP tire market allows us to push the levels of performance and engineering in all of our products, as the research and development behind every UHP tire represents the next generation of advancements in driving dynamics, tire design and special compounds to continue moving forward.
Nick Guiterrez, sales director, Sentury Tire U.S.A. Inc.: We understand the demand for SUV and CUV UHP tires. Our massive staggered fitment offering gives us the edge and will keep us among the leaders in the industry.
Jon Vance, senior vice president, product marketing, TBC Corp.: UHP will always be an important segment in the industry, as a portion of consumers will continually value key attributes such as enhanced handling and high-speed performance and look for the opportunity to plus-size. The replacement market will continue to be driven by many later OE model fitments, which are W- and Y-rated. As OE trends continue, so too will aftermarket tires, with an enhanced performance touring segment, in efforts to ultimately achieve a UHP level of performance.
Sonny McDonald, national training manager, Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp.: The UHP market is already alive and well in the CUV and SUV market. If you look at the OE sizes on most of these vehicles, the rim diameters are 17-inch and larger, the aspect ratio is 55 or smaller, and the speed/performance is V-rated and higher. That is the classic definition of a UHP tire. Today, almost every trim level CUV and SUV has a UHP-sized product, including 19- and 21-inch rim diameters. For example, Toyo builds a 235/55R19 101V Open Country A39, which is OE on the 2019 Toyota RAV4. The 2019-2020 Chevy Blazer is option-equipped with a 265/45R21 104V and the 2020 Ford Explorer is option-equipped with 275/45R21 110W sizes. Tire dealers will see increased revenues and profits from this new market segment.Bob Abram, senior manager of consumer product planning, Yokohama Tire Corp.: For the last 15 years, the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association has reported steady, and at times even aggressive, growth in the UHP all-season segment. Looking forward, growth is still projected through 2024. The outlook for UHP should still be strong, despite the shift in vehicle preference to CUV/SUV. There are a few good reasons for this. The first is that because CUVs are on the rise, there are now CUVs in many shapes, sizes and varying performance levels. These vehicles have different tire types and sizes, as fitted at OE, and often, UHP tires, whether all-season or summer, are part of that mix. Secondly, many smaller CUVs now have the same tire sizes that larger luxury or performance cars had in the past.
MTD: In a crowded field, how can tire dealers differentiate your UHP products?
Mathis, Atturo: Atturo is differentiated in the market as a specialist in the SUV/light truck segment. This applies to our multi-terrain tires as well as our UHP AZ850. Atturo launched our brand 10 years ago, with the UHP AZ800. We subsequently developed the AZ850, which includes run-flat technology. The AZ850 line offers the correct load index and speed ratings for modern SUV and CUV vehicles.
Watson, BFGoodrich: Our customers are attracted to our authentic, distinguishable and engaging line of products. We have a long history of performance and products that complement any modern sport vehicle. Not only do our UHP tires offer performance, but they also offer ways to enhance the look of a vehicle with exclusive, customizable colored sidewall letters.
Kelly, Bridgestone: Bridgestone UHP tires are inspired and built on decades of advanced racing technology and innovation. This expertise continues to guide the development of Bridgestone and Firestone performance tires for passenger vehicles, as our engineers collaborate to share key learnings and help drive the category forward. Today, Bridgestone offers a portfolio of products in almost every UHP subcategory — from high performance all-season tires, such as the Firestone Firehawk AS tire, to extreme UHP summer tires, with the Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R tire — to provide maximum grip and confident handling, speed and braking.Roffler, Con tinental: Our objective with every product we sell is to create a balance between consumer value, product performance and dealer margin. Both the Continental ExtremeContact Sport and ExtremeContact DWS06 and the General G-Max RS & G-Max AS05 consistently perform at top levels in performance in their respective competitive set. Our Total Confidence Plan on Continental products is the best warranty in the business: class-leading mileage warranties, a 60-day Customer Satisfaction Trial, free road hazard in the first 12 months or 2/32s of tread wear, and free, three-year flat tire roadside assistance.
Paige, Cooper: With many UHP tires on the market, we recognize that it can be challenging for dealers to differentiate among various offerings from different competitors. Cooper believes that providing education and support related to our products is the best way to help dealers truly understand the differences between our products and others. We have online learning courses, such as for the Cooper Zeon RS3-G1 UHP product, to help dealer sales professionals understand the unique characteristics of the tire and what makes it a great value, blending performance and price.
Johnson, Falken: At Falken, we believe earning OE fitments is a testament to consistent development in technology and innovation. This is why we were ecstatic to hear our Azenis FK510 SUV was selected as an OE tire for the 2019 Porsche Macan. We also ensure our UHP products are tested by drivers who demand the most from their tires, which is why we’re excited to see our Azenis RT615K+ selected as the spec tire for SCCA’s Solo Spec Coupe class. We believe our abundance of motorsports success speaks volumes about the quality and performance of our products. While competitive performance is expected from the UHP segment, Falken aims to differentiate our product offerings by keeping safety at the core of the performance requirements. Federal: For Federal’s UHP product line, we provide the 595 series and the Evoluzion series. Technically, we group them into two different segments of UHP products. Based on Tire Rack’s definition, our 595 series falls under the extreme performance summer tires segment, and the Evoluzion series (tires) are max performance summer tires. The patterns on the 595 series are all-directional, designed specially to achieve excellent maneuverability with hyper-focused dry grip. The Evoluzion series (tires) are all asymmetrical, high performance street tires.
Shelton, Giti: The street UHP tires of today perform better in the dry than those racing tires of yesteryear, and still perform superbly in the wet, whereas the old race tires did not. GT Radial UHP tires have great breakaway characteristics with easy recovery built in so drivers can be close to the limit on track days, with extra security for any surprises during the daily drive.
Ron Henegar, senior product marketing manager for consumer high performance and winter tires, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.: When it comes to UHP tires, one of the ways dealers can differentiate the many products available on the market is through wet performance. While many UHP tires perform well in dry conditions, dealers are looking for a tire that performs well in all-season conditions, and consumers are asking for tires that perform in wet conditions.
Smouter, Hankook: Hankook’s Ventus line of UHP tires is designed to provide excellent grip, response and handling for the performance-minded driver. Our Ventus lineup has tested well globally and Hankook is proud of our ability to meet the strict OE requirements of the best automotive brands around the world.Liu, Hercules: The UHP tire market is crowded and ever-evolving. Technological breakthroughs continue to allow for expanded capability and minimized technical compromises, especially with the heightened emphasis on today’s vehicles’ performance and versatility. To remain at the forefront of technology and design, Hercules launched the Raptis R-T5. The all-season UHP tire offers dry and wet grip, reduced stopping distance, and 3D siping to give consumers greater control, responsive handling and tighter cornering.
Maxxis: In the case of the VR-1 Extreme Summer tire, our engineering focus was to maximize the cost/ performance ratio. We understand a lot of customers have a budget to work with, so we engineered the VR-1 to have an excellent balance between cost, dry/wet lap times, tread wear and heat cycle performance. We think we have one of the best offerings out there for someone who wants maximum value out of their extreme summer UHP.
Lee, Nexen: Nexen has two, primary representative UHP products: the N’Fera SU1 and the N’Fera AU7. The N’Fera SU1 is a UHP summer tire and offers superior grip on dry and wet conditions. The N’Fera AU7 offers low road noise, plus superior comfort and grip, especially in wet conditions. Nexen offers a total coverage warranty, which includes mileage, road hazard coverage and 36 months roadside assistance on these two products.
Bourassa, Nokian: Both the passenger and SUV versions of the Nokian zLine A/S are UHP all-season tires that provide sporty handling demanded by many of these vehicles and drivers. What differentiates the zLine A/S products from others is the quiet, comfortable ride provided during times when utmost performance is not required. These include long load trips and urban driving, when comfort and silence are appreciated in what are often expensive or luxury vehicles.
Pirelli: The P Zero is Pirelli’s flagship UHP tire. These tires are specifically designed and developed with vehicle manufacturers to deliver the optimal driving experience.Pereira, Sailun: The Sailun Atrezzo SVA1 has been specifically designed to deliver impressive value for those who enjoy driving. The SVA1 allows consumers to get the most out of their car’s performance, but for much less than they would expect to pay for such a high-quality UHP tire. Plus, the Sailun Atrezzo SVA1 includes a 40,000-mile tread life warranty, separating us from other value-tier brands. The Atrezzo SVA1 has been positioned in the market as a top value-tier UHP alternative. This allows Sailun products to represent a smart buy for consumers and an easy sell for dealers.
Guiterrez, Sentury: Quality. Tire dealers know a high-quality tire when they see one. Sentury manufactures the Delinte and Landsail brands in one of the very few, fully automated tire factories in the world. With the D7 UHP, the DS8 UHP and the LS588 UHP, the Delinte and Landsail brands are building the largest collective of staggered fitment applications in the tire industry for sport luxury, modern muscle, SUVs and CUVs. As an example, the All Season DS8 has a huge offering of staggered fitments, with wheel diameters ranging from 18 to 32 inches and over 82 different fitment sizes.
Vance, TBC: Continued improvements in product quality within our value proposition tire lines, such as Sumitomo and TBC’s proprietary brands Velozza and Atrezzo (note: TBC is the exclusive distributor of Sailun brand products in the U.S.), offer dealers an enhanced profitability alternative compared to top and mid-tier products. With flexibility in managing their stocking levels, dealers are able to order tires where the performance and quality far exceed purchase price expectations.
McDonald, Toyo: The UHP market segment has always been a race to the top for tire manufacturers to showcase their most advanced technology in compounding, construction, and tread design. It is similar to car manufacturers building their supercars to highlight their latest, greatest technology, plus generate media attention. The true UHP enthusiast will spend more time on research — utilizing a tire manufacturer’s website, enthusiast forums, and third-party testing — before making a final decision than a typical tire buyer. Training and educating the tire dealer is the best way to differentiate a tire manufacturer’s UHP products.
Duane Sampson, product marketing manager, Yokohama: Two of the Advan products launched in 2019 are the AdvanA052 and the Advan Apex. Since the launch of the Advan A052 in April, it has competed for thousands of miles in the One Lap of America and the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, and totally dominated the Street Touring class of the SCCA Solo Nationals. The Advan Apex, which launched in August, follows the legacy of Yokohama high performance products in the U.S., like the A008, the AVS Intermediate and the ES100.So what’s new?
Capitalizing on continued growth in the CUV and SUV vehicles segments, tire manufacturers are making significant investments in their UHP offerings.
Atturo is positioning the AZ850 as a performance tire for the modern SUV, CUV and sport truck that is designed to take advantage of the increased power and handling ability of these vehicles. The asymmetric tread design features different inside and outside contours for optimum balance across the tread, which evenly distributes pressure to enhance comfort and handling.
The BFGoodrich Comp 2-AS Plus uses the proven tread design of the current BFGood-rich Comp 2-AS. Combined with the latest evolution in tread compound technology, Michelin stretched the performance capabilities for even better wet, dry and snow driving. The tire debuts this month and will be available to consumers in 2020.
Bridgestone launched the Potenza RE980AS in 2018 as “a flagship tire” engineered for drivers of performance and luxury vehicles who enjoy taking a curve in any weather. Engineered for premium sports cars and sedans, it is optimized for precise handling year-round.
The Continental ExtremeContact DWS06 is for drivers who want a true all-season tire without sacrificing performance handling and traction, even in rain and light snow. The tire offers wet and dry grip, injecting confidence into every turn and straightaway.
The Cooper Zeon RS3-G1 was created with technology to meet high-performance needs. The tire’s wide tread creates a stable footprint, and it is backed by a 45,000-mile warranty, a 500-AA-A UTQG rating, and, as the tire maker notes, “plenty of great online reviews.”
Federal has positioned the Evoluzion F60 as its flagship tire “for ultra-high performance driving” with superior responsiveness, handling, braking and grip.Giti’s GT Radial Champiro UHP AS delivers straight-line stability, cornering grip and braking capabilities in both wet and dry conditions, as well as handling and grip in light snow. It boasts four wide circumferential grooves, multi-depth sipes and other features.
Goodyear says its Eagle Exhilarate UHP all-season tire is the result of more than three years of research, development and testing. The tire features Goodyear’s ActiveGrip Technology for handling and traction, ActiveBraking Technology for enhanced braking, ActiveStrength Technology for confident handling, and a wear gauge tool that makes it easy to see remaining tread.
For summer driving, Hankook promotes the Ventus S1 evo2 and the Ventus V12 evo2, which provide performance, crisp handling, and driving confidence. In the UHP all-season segment, Hankook has the Ventus S1 Noble2, with high performance at high speeds, combined with up to a 50,000-mile tread wear warranty and light winter performance.
The Hercules Raptis R-T5 is an all-season UHP tire made with “top-tier technologies” plus design and advanced materials. It marries the year-round versatility of a premium touring tire with the control of an ultra-high performance tire. The tire is backed by a 45,000-miles tread wear warranty, a 45-day trial, and road hazard protection.
Maxxis says its Victra VR-1 features a compound that gets up to operating temperatures quickly and provides dry traction on the street or during competition. Engineers made sure the compound heat-cycled well, so the tire stays fast throughout the life of the tire. The Victra VR-1 is available in 15- to 18-inch diameters.
Nexen is promoting its N’Fera AU7 as a UHP tire for all seasons. It provides traction in dry and wet road conditions, and has 3D kerf sipes to reinforce block stiffness and improve handling. The N’Fera AU7 features a 45-day trial offer, along with a 50,000 mileage warranty and 36 months of roadside assistance.Safety, performance, comfort and luxury all came together in the Nokian zLine A/S, a performance all-season tire designed for fast driving throughout the year. Precise handling capabilities and technology advances ensure the Nokian zLine A/S will get consumers where they want to go, as quickly as they want to get there, says the company.
The Pirelli P Zero PZ4 leverages knowledge gained from the company’s partnership with top original equipment manufacturers into the ultra-high performance product. The tire is available in two versions, the P Zero (PZ4) Luxury Sedan and the P Zero(PZ4) Sport Car, that provide drivers with a customized experience.
The Sailun Atrezzo SVA1 is engineered for high-speed performance, cornering and braking. It’s available in more than 40 sizes, and features an asymmetrical tread design, offers wet and dry traction, has a solid center rib for directional stability, wide shoulder blocks for high-speed cornering, and more.
Sentury is targeting SUVs and CUVs, as well as passenger cars, with the Delinte DS8 All-Season UHP. The DS8 has a vast offering of staggered fitments, with wheel diameters ranging from 18 to 32 inches and more than 82 different fitment sizes. It is backed by 50,000-mile and road hazard warranties.TBC calls the Sumitomo HTR Z5 its maximum performance summer tire, and says the product outperforms its predecessor, the Sumitomo HTR Z3, with major improvements in wet braking, wet handling, dry braking and ride comfort. The tire features widened circumferential grooves for advanced hydroplaning resistance and an increased shoulder and contact patch to prevent irregular wear.
Toyo says its Proxes Sport creates a greater connection to the road with improved contact, grip and handling. This max performance summer tire combines Toyo’s Nano Balance Technology with a unique tread design to deliver in wet and dry conditions. It is backed by a 25,000-mile warranty and Toyo’s 500-mile trial offer.
Certain sizes of Yokohama’s new UHP all-season tire, the Advan Sport A/S+, fit midsize or small CUVs. This year Yokohama also released the Geolandar X-CV, a W-rated, all-season tire for performance CUVs. ■