Retail

A true tire show

Mike Manges
Posted on December 17, 2008

At first glance, it would have been tempting to define the Tires, Wheels & Equipment section of last month’s Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show by who was not there.

Foot traffic was down substantially. The Big Three tire manufacturers —

Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire LLC, Michelin North America Inc. and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. — did not have a flag brand presence at the event. (However, Goodyear set up a booth for its Dunlop brand and Michelin was represented by its Tire Centers LLC subsidiary.)

While conspicuous, their absences opened up unprecedented opportunities for second- and third-tier tire manufacturers, many of whom capitalized on the situation by significantly expanding their booth space and using the show as a vehicle to introduce new tires.

The strategy evidently struck a chord with tire dealers and distributors.

Several manufacturers reported that even though traffic was clearly down versus previous shows, the quality of the conversations they had with buyers was refreshingly high.

Fuel-efficient tires, winter tires, ultra-high performance tires, rugged light truck tires, touring tires — all were put on pedestals (and in some cases, old-fashioned tire racks) and were carefully scrutinized by serious, business-focused buyers.

Here’s a look at the tires we found while scouring the SEMA Show floor:



Continental Tire North America Inc. (CTNA) unveiled its ExtremeContact family, which consists of three products.

The Continental ExtremeContact DW is tuned for wet and dry conditions and includes CTNA’s proprietary DW Tuned Performance Indicators, which are visible letters built into the second rib of the tire’s tread.

The letters are designed to alert drivers of the tire’s “optimal performance levels,” say CTNA officials. “‘D’ indicates the tire is at optimum tread depth for dry conditions. ‘W’ indicates the tire is at optimum tread depth for wet conditions.

“As the tire wears and the letters are still visible, the tire performance remains optimized for that particular weather condition.”

The ExtremeContact DW will launch during the second quarter of 2009. It will have 88 sizes, ranging from 16 inches to 21 inches.

The Continental ExtremeContact DWS is the second component of the ExtremeContact line. The tire combines all-season and ultra-high performance characteristics and also comes with CTNA’s DW Tuned Performance Indicators, with an extra indicator for snowy conditions. The tire will be available in 88 sizes, ranging from 16 inches to 24 inches. Its first phase will launch during the second quarter of 2009.

Also new from CTNA is the Continental ExtremeWinterContact, the company’s “best winter tire to date,” according to CTNA officials. Features include lateral grooves, multiple gripping edges, a flexible tread compound and other elements.

The tire will be available for the 2009/2010 winter season in 52 sizes, ranging from 13 inches to 17 inches. “The ExtremeContact family is 100% dedicated to the North American market,” says CTNA Executive Vice President Andreas Gerstenberger.

Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. introduced the Cooper GFE, the company’s first low-rolling resistance touring tire.

“The GFE is designed to provide greater fuel efficiency, as the initials imply, and reduced rolling resistance without sacrificing tread life or traction,” say Cooper officials. It combines “state-of-the-art mixing technology together with an enhanced polymer system and silica tread compound.”

The GFE will be available in the summer of 2009 in 14- through 16-inch sizes to fit “many popular fuel-efficient vehicles.” It will come with a 60,000-mile tread wear warranty.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s Dunlop brand has several new tires, including the Dunlop Signature CS, the latest addition to the Dunlop Signature line.

The Signature CS is a premium touring tire that targets crossover vehicles. Features include Goodyear’s VersaLoad Technology, which helps maximize the tire’s footprint; Evaqua Grooves to pump water away from the tire’s footprint; and other technologies. The tire will be available early next year in nine sizes, raging from 16 inches to 18 inches. Two more sizes will be added during the first half of 2009. It will carry a 60,000-mile tread life limited warranty.

The Dunlop Rover M/T Maxx Traction on/off-road light truck/SUV tire also made its debut during the SEMA Show.

Available this February in 17 initial sizes, the tire “features center traction lugs for excellent start-up and braking traction in sand, dirt, wet and winter conditions, along with self-cleaning channels that help expel mud and debris.” Off-road traction is helped by the presence of an interlocking centerline. The tire also contains a rim flange protector.

Duro Tire & Wheel offered a sneak preview of its new touring tire, the Performa T/P, which will be available next month. The tire will come in two sizes, including P205/40R17, according to Steve Richardson, Duro’s director of sales and marketing.

The Performa T/P targets crossover vehicles and sedans, and “will have 30 SKUs when the line is complete.”

Falken Tire Corp. introduced its Euro-winter HS439, a high performance winter tire. The HS439 contains a new silica compound that “ensures tread flexibility in cold weather conditions, thus improving winter driving predictability and traction consistency,” according to Falken officials.

The tire’s tread pattern has multi-angled sipes, plus circumferential grooves designed to expel water, slush and packed snow.

The Eurowinter HS439 is available in more than 30 sizes, including 10 sizes with aspect ratios of 50 or less. They include 40 series (235/40VR18 and 245/40VR18), 45 series (225/45VRF17, 235/45VR17, 245/45VR17 and 245/45VR18) and 50 series (205/50R17, 225/50VR17, 235/50VR18 and 255/50VR19) sizes.

“The original equipment tires of today’s luxury sport coupes and sedans are continually furthering themselves from traditional sizes,” says Andrew Hoit, Falken’s director of marketing.

“These new sizes combined with North American drivers who prefer not to sacrifice handling and performance during the winter months creates a need for the new Falken Eurowinter HS439.”

Performance winter tires make up more than 50% of the overall winter tire market, according to Falken.

CTNA’s General Grabber is the latest addition to the General brand Grabber light truck tire family, which includes the Grabber Competition, the Grabber HTS, the Grabber UHP and the Grabber AT2.

The Grabber has been engineered to dig into muddy terrain with the help of its patented “Strake and Chamfer” technology. Other elements include a tough, three-ply reinforced body construction; race-proven Duragen tread compound; an aggressive, self-cleaning tread pattern; multiple tread edges that deliver side bite and lateral traction; specially designed rim protection; and puncture-resistant sidewalls.

“We’ve taken the best elements of our wildly successful Grabber Competition tire and re-engineered it with a balance of off-road capability and on-road manners for today’s light truck market,” says CTNA Director of Marketing Travis Roffler.

The Grabber will be available in the third quarter of 2009 in 14 light truck sizes ranging from 15 inches to 22 inches, with outside diameters ranging from 31 inches to 35 inches.

While CTNA is looking at developing a Grabber with an outside diameter of 37 inches — the same size as the General Grabber Competition — Roffler says the 35-inch maximum better fits market needs.

The Grabber line is manufactured at the company’s Mount Vernon, Ill., plant.

Hankook Tire America Corp.’s new Ventus R-S3 Z222 premium ultra-high performance tire will be available in seven “high demand” sizes ranging from 15 inches to 18 inches starting in April 2009, according to Hankook officials. (The tire “is in the final development stages,” says Bill Bainbridge, Hankook’s director of brand communications.)

More sizes will be introduced during the first quarter of 2010.

The Ventus R-S3 Z222 is designed for tuner and performance enthusiasts and succeeds the Hankook Ventus R-S2 Z212. It’s the first Hankook brand tire for the North American market that contains the company’s Kontrol Technology, which is already available in Hankook’s enfren tire, currently sold in China and South Korea (for more information about Kontrol Technology, see page 66.)

In addition, “Hankook has applied its latest motorsports technology (to the tire) to improve dry grip performance by 30%, further enhancing the tire’s handling capabilities,” Bainbridge says.

Hankook also has applied race tire compound technology to the product, while the tire’s profile “has been developed to maximize the footprint contact patch.”

Hankook has molded a unique flame design into the tire’s tread “that will be aesthetically pleasing to customers who are looking to show off their vehicle’s hot new shoes.”

Hercules Tire & Rubber Co. displayed several newer tires at its SEMA Show booth, including the Hercules Raptis WR1, an ultra-high performance tire available in 18 sizes.

The Raptis WR1 “addresses the UHP market for our customers,” says Hercules Vice President of Marketing Joshua Simpson. The tire “helps complete our line” and is currently in stock.

Hercules also displayed the Hercules CP661, a touring tire that’s offered in 20 sizes. It contains a continuous center rib, as well as other features.
In addition, Hercules showed off the Hercules All Trac A/T light truck tire, which is designed for all-terrain use. The tire comes in eight sizes and promotes “high mileage and even wear, an added plus in today’s economy,” notes Simpson.

Maxxis International — U.S.A. rolled out its Maxxis AT771 light truck tire. Part of the Maxxis Bravo series, the tire will be available in 38 sizes ranging from 15 inches to 20 inches during the first quarter of 2009.

The tire contains a multi-pitch tread pattern design to minimize road noise, a staggered shoulder lug design, three-dimensional tread blocks for extra stiffness, four “U-shaped” circumferential grooves for hydroplaning resistance and a jointless, spiral-wound cap ply.

Nexen Tire America Inc. showcased several new tires at the show. The CP672 is available in 16 SKUs (ranging from 14 inches to 16 inches) and will be original equipment on some new KIA vehicles next year, according to Nexen officials. The CP672 contains a twin center rib, enhanced tread design and other features.

The Roadian 542 contains a five random variable pitch sequence and rigid shoulder blocks.

It will be OE on the new Kia Borrego crossover vehicle, says Chris Tolbert, northeast sales territory manager for Nexen. It’s available in six sizes, ranging from 16 inches to 18 inches.

Nexen also used the SEMA Show to introduce two winter tires to the U.S. market: the Winguard NEO and the Winguard Sport. The Winguard NEO boasts a high grip silica compound, plus other elements, while the Winguard Sport, a high performance winter tire, boasts a unique kerf design, as well as other elements. Both tires were already being sold in Canada.

Nexen also displayed a 15-series version of its N3000 passenger tire (specific size: 365/15ZR24).

“We take a lot of pride in our technology,” says Nexen Marketing Representative Mike Meeiem.

Nitto Tire U.S.A. Inc. launched its NT05, the company’s most aggressive, non-competition street tire.

The summer performance tire gets its name from the fusion of two other Nitto tires: the NT01, a D.O.T.-approved R-compound tire, and the NT555 UHP.

The NT05’s name signifies that it’s based on the NT01’s race technology, but is specifically engineered for street performance.

To optimize its dry performance, the tire sports a large, continuous center rib and big outer shoulder blocks. Meanwhile, reinforced tread blocks provide rigidity and stability. These tread features help provide crisp turn-in, steering feedback and braking stability.

The Nitto NT05 will be available in 20 17-, 18-, 19- and 20-inch sizes during the first quarter of 2009.

Sizes will fit most popular high performance vehicles, note Nitto officials.

One additional 19-inch size and three more 20-inch sizes will be available during the second quarter.

Pirelli Tire North America (PTNA) unveiled the latest addition to its P Zero Nero line, the P Zero Nero All Season.

The tire is an all-season, ultra-high performance line that’s dedicated to North America. It will be available in nearly 30 sizes, ranging from 17 inches to 19 inches, including both P-metric and euro-metric sizes.

The P Zero Nero All Season utilizes silica compounding “with four longitudinal and many lateral grooves to minimize the risk of aquaplaning, even when cornering,” according to the company.

Other features include a solid center rib for a constant, consistent contact patch, and two zero-degree nylon cap plies designed to minimize footprint deformation.

The P Zero Nero All Season has a growing list of original equipment fitments and replacement sizes in conventional and run-flat constructions.

That includes size P245/45WR19 for the 2010 Ford Mustang GT, according to Vice President Tom Gravalos.

The new Summit Cascade II from SURE Tire Co. is a five-rib, all-season tire designed specifically for SUVs. It features “enhanced siping” compared to the previous generation tire, according to Executive Director Pat McLaughlin.

“We’ve enhanced the siping in the tread to increase its traction capabilities for starting and stopping in both wet and dry pavement conditions.”

The Cascade II is available in seven P-metric sizes ranging from 15 through 17 inches. The remaining six sizes will be introduced in 2009.
Tireco Inc. previewed its new Provato passenger touring line, which will be available early next year.

Provato will be positioned as “a step up program for dealers in the ‘better’ category,” says Ryan Sung, Tireco’s marketing coordinator.

“The plan is to explore the cosmetic performance segment.”

Tireco also has expanded its Milestar line with a new product, the MS70, which is for “very basic passenger applications, like older Toyota Corollas, Honda Accords — stuff like that.” The MS70 will be available at the end of the month.

Thailand-based Vee Rubber International Co. Ltd. launched two tires: the Winter Season 2 and the Taiga H/T.

The Winter Season 2 will be available in time for the 2009/2010 winter season. It contains a silica-based tread compound, central circumferential grooves and other elements.

The Taiga H/T is an all-season tire with large tread blocks, a highway-oriented tread, a closed shoulder design and a constant center rib with “half-depth” sipes, according to Vee Rubber officials. It’s available in 11 sizes; nine more sizes will be added by summer 2009. The Taiga H/T comes with a 50,000-mile warranty.

Vogue Tyre & Rubber Co.’s trademark gold stripe was on display in its booth, specifically on its new 245/40R20 white/gold striped tire with the 50,000-mile tread wear warranty.

But so were two “prototype” sidewall designs: a black sidewall with a script “V,” and a silver stripe.

“I think people are happy to see something different,” says President Greg Hathcock.

As for the silver design concept, he says “it’s just a matter of getting the right color. You want silver, not gray.”

Vredestein Tyres North America Inc. introduced three winter tires, plus “a real, true all-season tire that comes with the Extreme Winter symbol,” according to Sales Manager Al Smoke.

The winter tires are the Snowtrac 3, which the company describes as its “best ever winter tire”; the “studdable” Arctrac, designed for extreme winter conditions; and the Arctrac SUV, which features an extra-wide tread.

They are available in 15, 25 and five sizes, respectively.

The Quatrac 3 is the “true” all-season tire. It features an asymmetrical, non-directional tread pattern with separate “summer” and “winter” sides.

It is available in 17 H- and V-rated sizes, and will replace the Quatrac 2, which will be phased out over the course of 2009.

Yokohama Tire Corp. introduced its Advan Neova AD08, the newest addition to its flagship Advan line.

The tire will be available during the second quarter of 2009 in 39 sizes, ranging from 15 inches to 19 inches.

Features include a wide, “Unibloc” shoulder; sequential round grooves; a new “Microsilica” compound; steel sidewall inserts to increase casing rigidity; a “predictive profile,” which optimizes the tire’s contact patch; and others.

The Advan Neova AD08 “has been tested and evaluated on the best tracks in the world,” logging faster lap times than its predecessor, the Advan Neova AD07, says Takachi Fukui, vice president, Tire Group, for Yokohama Tire Corp.’s parent company, Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd.

“The Advan Neova AD08 represents a model change after six years from the highly acclaimed Advan Neova AD07 sports tire,” say Yokohama Rubber officials. ■

Commercial-minded -- Treadways unveils Sumitomo truck tires

Not all new tires at the 2008 Specialty Equipment Market Show were for the passenger, light truck or performance segments. Treadways Corp. used the show as a vehicle to unveil three Sumitomo brand medium truck tires: the ST778, ST709 and ST938.

The ST778 is a long-haul steer tire that contains a wide range of features, including Sumitomo’s Flat Contact Technology, and others.

The ST709 is designed for regional haul applications. It comes with a “beefy” 20/32nd tread depth applied to a wide, flat casing for 10% more rubber volume and longer life, say Treadways officials.

The ST938, a long-haul tire, features “super-deep” 30/32nd tread depth across a wide, flat radius to “dramatically improve tread life.” Other features include rigid interior tread blocks, increased base tread rubber and diamond-cut block edges.

Related Topics: Bridgestone, CTNA, Dunlop, Falken, Goodyear, Hankook Tire, Hercules, Maxxis, Nexen, Nitto, Pirelli, SEMA, SURE Tire, Tireco, Vogue, Vredestein, Yokohama

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