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Bridging the gap between P-metric and LT sizes

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Bridging the gap between P-metric and LT sizes

If P-metric tires are mounted on light trucks, are they light truck tires? Yes and no. From the consumer’s perspective, the answer is “yes.”

In order to accurately track shipment numbers, however, our industry says “no.” The “P” is there for a reason: It stands for “passenger.” All light truck tires are appropriately labeled LT.

As sport-utility vehicles gained widespread popularity, however, the P-metric tire had to evolve to meet increased load carrying capacity requirements. They bridged the gap, so to speak, between traditional P-metric tires (and their European metric counterparts) and LT tires.

Because the majority of tires on light trucks and SUVs are P-metric tires, almost every tire manufacturer competes in that market segment. Modern Tire Dealer contacted many of them, and asked them to outline the market for us.

A baker’s dozen responded, including Sentury Tire Americas, which is planning to launch its first P-metric light truck tire line in the near future. The new tires will be similar to the Landsail CLV2 and Delinte DH7 metric tires designed for the European market, according to Maxwell Wee, director of sales.

“We believe that it is an important segment in the industry as more drivers divert from the traditional utilization of light truck vehicles. These drivers are demanding the vehicles and tire manufacturers to provide better comfort and improve fuel economy.”

Ironically, as tire technology advances, the gap between P-metric and LT tires has narrowed. Ken Coltrane, vice president of consumer tires for China Manufacturers Alliance LLC, believes the gap is inconsequential.

“To me, P-metric light truck doesn’t make sense anymore. A light truck tire is a light truck tire.

“A P-metric tire encompasses so much now. The P275/65R118 on a Ford F-150 has a load index of 114. That’s higher than the LT275/65R18 113 on the 4x4 version, which has a stronger sidewall designed for a work environment.”

Goodyear refers to the segment as All-Terrain, which encompasses Standard Load (i.e., P-metric) and LT tires intended for use on SUVs and pickups.

“As with any segment, the tires correspond with the vehicles,” says Jim Davis, manager of Goodyear public relations. “In the case of pickups, for example, there is a recent popularity in larger trucks, and tire lineups must include load ratings and sizes that correspond. Still, earlier-model pickups and SUVs remain on the road, and tire offerings must reflect that, too.”

MTD: What is the current trend in this market segment?

Michael Mathis, Atturo: The P-metric light truck segment is rather stagnant at the moment. There is not a lot of advancement in new sizes or applications.

Justin Hayes, Bridgestone: The light truck/SUV/CUV vehicle segment is a dynamic, large and growing segment. Nearly 52% of the more than 252 million vehicles in operation in the U.S. comprise this segment. The trends are influenced by shifts in the vehicle mix as consumers change from SUVs to CUVs.

Ken Coltrane, CMA: More SKUs.

Barry Terzaken, Continental: Vehicles in this segment continue to raise the bar by providing unprecedented levels of comfort, luxury and exceptional handling, while delivering the utility customers need. This attractive blend of pleasure and function drive growth of the segment, while improved performance expectations place increased demands on the vehicle’s tires.

Don Reindl, Falken: Longer mileage and winter traction increases are areas where we see the most effort. We also see an evolution of tire sizes as the CUVs become more and more popular. Larger rim diameters up to 19 and 20 inches are increasing in use as well.

Jim Davis, Goodyear: The segment is growing. And the expectations of consumers in this segment are growing. They want off-road capability with on-road manners, toughness for towing and hauling loads, wet traction, off-road traction (and) tread life.

Henry Kopacz, Hankook: Much like other market segments, consumers (with light trucks) are interested in comfort and fuel efficiency. While rolling resistance may not be a household term just yet, because of ever increasing fuel prices, consumers are coming to realize the value that lower rolling resistance and low rolling resistance tires can provide them.

Steven Liu, Hercules: We have seen substantial growth of P-metric light truck tires on the replacement side in the last 10 years. Replacement size proliferation will continue as evident in OE size proliferation in P-metric.

S.B. Kim, Kumho: Manufacturers continue to keep P-metric light truck sizing available in the all-terrain/ highway-terrain segments of the market in order to cater to consumer needs.

Stephen Ewing, Pirelli: With CUV sales far outpacing auto sales overall in terms of growth rate, the market for P- and euro-metric light truck tires is growing significantly. We are also seeing more and more CUVs come OE with H-, V- and even W-rated tires.

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Jon Vance, TBC: From a tire performance and attribute standpoint, obviously with the majority of OE crossover and SUV fitments now offered in a myriad of 17-inch to 20-inch rim diameters across an increasing breadth of aspect ratios, the trend toward larger and broader sizing is one that is here to stay. But the driving habits and performance requirements of today’s consumers are also guiding the development of products in these segments. Most of us live in urban areas, and consumers want a tire that can complement the “start and stop” demands of their daily commutes and lifestyles, meaning all condition traction, ride quality, durability and handling capabilities closer to a performance tire than a traditional light truck tire. Even tread designs are being impacted, as traditional five-rib designs or all-position patterns are being tweaked with asymmetrical or performance-specific elements being incorporated into the tread for maximum utility that matches today’s multi-use lifestyle.

From a market standpoint, especially at wholesale, we are seeing many more lines offering later model large rim diameter fitments, even from import manufacturers who have traditionally focused on the high volume, mass market sizes in 16 inches and 17 inches, And tire dealers and distributors are looking to their suppliers to have product offerings that proactively and progressively meet the size and speed rating requirements of this evolving market.

Jim Mayfield, Toyo: The market is dominated by 1/2-ton pickups and a variety of SUVs. The vast majority have load-carrying capacities that a P-metric tire will satisfy. It’s when we move into the larger towing and carrying capacities that we see LT tires as OE and then standard replacement.

Bob Abram, Yokohama: Everyone wants more out of their tires, so better mileage and increased grip never go out of style.

MTD: How would you define the consumer who buys P-metric light truck tires?

Mathis, Atturo: The current P-metric light truck customer is typically replacing an OE tire on (his or her) truck. We believe there will be growth in this segment as more of the small SUV, crossover and re-introduction of the small pickup are added to the market. This remains the fastest growing segment of the auto industry, and Atturo is the only brand in the market that solely focuses on the SUV/light truck market segment.

Hayes, Bridgestone: Consumers who are looking for P-metric light truck tires are those whose needs and lifestyles call for them to drive a CUV, SUV or light truck. Whether it’s the towing capability of a truck, or the sportier feel of a CUV, the range of consumer needs in this segment can be met with one of the offerings in Bridgestone’s Dueler line.

Coltrane, CMA: Owners of CUV’s and SUV’s are the primary buyers of these tires.

Terzaken, Continental: Drivers of crossover and sport-utility vehicles, as well as many standard size pickup trucks, look for a tire that not only offers the load carrying capability for their vehicle, but one that also provides a well-balanced, sophisticated experience. Quiet, comfortable operation (and) the assurance of excellent grip in all conditions, are important attributes for these consumers.

Reindl, Falken: The majority of light truck vehicles produced each year are fitted with P-metric light truck sized tires. These vehicles include minivans, SUVs and CUVs, as well as traditional LT vehicles. P-metric sizes can be found in standard passenger tire tread designs as well as tires designed specifically for light trucks, such as all-terrain tread designs.

Consumers driving half-ton pickup trucks, midsize and small SUVs and commercial vans like those used in airport transportation or light-duty commercial use are most likely to need a light truck pattern P-metric sized tire.

Kopacz, Hankook: The consumers who buy P-metric light truck tires are interested in ride comfort, handling and safety.

Liu, Hercules: P-metrics work fine in the vast majority of light-duty pickup and SUV applications. P-metric light truck tires are often associated with lower cost, longer tread life and, typically, better fuel economy and ride comfort — all the key benefits a consumer desires. The key is for the consumer to understand the application and the load capacity, and it’s important for dealers to ask the right questions when recommending a replacement light truck tire.

Kim, Kumho: The typical P-metric light truck tire consumer is usually a CUV, SUV or light truck owner who uses the vehicle for everyday commuting. Consumers who usually use their vehicle for carrying cargo would require a tire with a higher load capacity than just the P-metric.

Ewing, Pirelli: P-metric or Euro-metric light truck tires are intended for applications where the priority is comfort and/or fuel economy instead of load carrying capability or towing.

Vance, TBC: There are two distinct consumer groups that are the primary purchasers of P-metric truck tires, in my opinion. One, of course, is the consumers who are at the early replacement stages with their later model vehicles and are looking for product options that offer value but deliver the performance attributes that they require in their daily usage. In such cases, speed ratings may be a factor, as many of the later model OE fitments are offered in higher speed ratings than the traditional S- or T-rated versions, and consumers don’t want to change for the OE rating. And these sizes tend to be in higher rim diameters as well, following the OE trend.

The other group is the owners of aging vehicles such as small to mid-size pickups and older SUVs who are later in the replacement cycle and are looking more at price versus the specific attributes of the tire. Many of these consumers will opt for P-metric over LT sizing for cost reasons, especially if their daily usage doesn’t require enhanced carrying capacity.

Mayfield, Toyo: P-metric light truck tires are primarily purchased by OE replacement customers. If you look at the OE data for the last 10 years, the fitments on light trucks have run about 80% to 90% P-metric vs. LT-metric. The replacement market follows very closely what we are seeing on the OE side.

Abram, Yokohama: This is a broad question, as P-metric light truck tires could be all-terrain, highway terrain or a more touring-like design as found on many crossover SUVs. It’s unlikely that consumers needing these different tire types for different vehicle types would be similar. With regard to consumers who buy highway terrain tires, they look for reliability, quality and durability above all else, but all-season traction and ride quality is also important. So we designed the Geolander H/T G056’s tread (with an) advanced compound for durability, Triple 3D sipes for even wear and all-season traction and Adaptive Shoulder Blocks to combat noise as the tire wears.

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MTD: What is your company’s newest P-metric light truck tire?

Mathis, Atturo: Atturo is adding P-metric sizes to the Trail Blade All Terrain and AZ600 touring model. We are also including P-metric sizes in future product development. The new sizes in the Trail Blade A/T will include 11 new sizes from 16 to 20 inches in diameter. The AZ600 will add a further six 16- to 20-inch sizes.

Hayes, Bridgestone: Bridgestone’s newest P-metric light truck tire offering is the Dueler H/L Alenza Plus, which is specially designed to give drivers of premium SUVs, CUVs and light trucks a longer-lasting luxury driving experience.

The Dueler H/L Alenza Plus offers a segment-leading 80,000-mile tread wear limited warranty. This tire also features a quiet ride, EverBlack sidewall that preserves the appearance over time, our trusted Eco-Product designation and improved fuel efficiency, all features that many of today’s consumers are looking for in a light truck tire.

Coltrane, CMA: CMA will be introducing a new P-metric LT tire in the first quarter of 2015. Called the Travia H/T, it will initially have 10 P-metric sizes in 15- to 17-inch rim diameters along with 10 LT sizes. It is a highway terrain tire designed for a smooth, quiet ride and exceptional performance in wet conditions. With a 600 AA UTQG rating, we believe the tire will offer an extraordinary value to consumers looking to save money by stepping down from the Tier Two brands. Conversely, dealers will be able to price position this tire at the upper end of Tier Three in order to maximize their profitability.

Terzaken, Continental: The CrossContact LX20 is available in rim diameters from 16 to 22 inches in widths from 215 to 285 mm. The CCLX20 features EcoPlus Technology, providing enhanced fuel efficiency, excellent wet braking performance and long tread life. Additional features include Traction Grooves, providing improved snow grip, and Smooth Response Technology, which provides a comfortable, quiet ride with crisp steering response. The CCLX20 has a 70,000-mile warranty, 60-Day Customer Satisfaction Trial and road hazard coverage.

Reindl, Falken: Our newest P-metric LT is a size expansion of our Wild Peak H/T, an on-highway, all-season tire designed for use on pickup’s, SUV’s, commercial vans and some CUV fitments.

Davis, Goodyear: The Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure with Kevlar... is optimized for both everyday highway driving and going off-road, with an emphasis on tread life performance and an extensive size line-up in LT and Standard Load offerings. Durawall Technology offers toughness and helps resist cuts and punctures.

Kopacz, Hankook: Hankook’s newest P-metric light truck tire is the Dynapro HT. The premium highway, all-season Dynapro HT provides drivers of light trucks, vans and sport-utility vehicles improved snow traction, low rolling resistance and longer tread wear. A wide, computer-generated tread enables better mileage, less noise and excellent grip. The Dynapro HT is available in 15-inch through 20-inch sizes.

Liu, Hercules: The Hercules Terra Trac Cross-V offers a unique mix of wear resistance, all-weather traction, low rolling resistance and outstanding value. The Cross-V features a 70,000-mile/112,000-km limited warranty on P-metric sizes and a 65,000-mile/105,000-km warranty on LT sizes, road hazard protection and the 30-day Trust Our Ride test drive. It is available in 32 SUV/CUV and LT-designated sizes with 16- to 20-inch rim diameters.

Kim, Kumho: The Kumho Crugen KL33 is offered in the United States in two sizes: 235/60R18 and P235/55R19. Additional sizes will be available in December ranging from 16- to 20-inch fitments. The Kumho Crugen KL33 features a four groove, five rib tread design that provides excellent on-road handling and all-season traction. The tire’s variable pitch tread design reduces noise for a quieter ride and the wide circumferential grooves contribute to confident wet and snow traction.

Ewing, Pirelli: Pirelli’s newest light truck tire for P- and Euro-metric applications, the Scorpion Verde All-Season Plus, is designed for on-road use by SUV/CUV owners. It uses innovative materials and construction processes to give consumers the best performance and feature benefits — low tread wear, low noise and rolling resistance, coupled with high mileage, comfort and excellent handling in all weather conditions. It is currently available in 29 sizes from 16-inch to 22-inch rim diameters in the H and V speed ratings.

Vance, TBC: This year, we introduced the Sumitomo HTR Enhance C/X that specifically targets the SUV and crossover market with 15 16- to 19-inch metric sizes, along with a 60,000-mile tread wear warranty, a free one-year road hazard coverage, and two-year roadside assistance. The HTR Enhance offers durable and dependable long-lasting performance combined with outstanding all-season traction and superior highway ride quality.

Mayfield, Toyo: The Open Country A/T II all-terrain tire (features)... a blatantly aggressive tread design and a quiet ride. P-metric sizes fit 15-, 16-, 17-, 18- and 20-inch rim diameters.

Abram, Yokohama: Yokohama’s newest highway terrain tire, the Geolander H/T G056, launched on Sept. 1, 2014. It’s available in 38 sizes — 27 P-metric, 11 LT-metric — from 15-inch to 20-inch diameters. It has Advanced Orange-Oil Compound and Triple 3D Sipes to achieve a 70,000-mile limited tread wear warranty — 50,000 on LT-metric — and outstanding all-season traction.   ■

Meet the first responders (to our questions)

  • Michael Mathis, co-owner and vice president of international marketing, Atturo Tire Corp.
  • Justin Hayes, consumer tire product manager, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC.
  • Ken Coltrane, vice president of consumer tires, China Manufacturers Alliance LLC (CMA).
  • Barry Terzaken, light truck and SUV tire product manager, Continental Tire the Americas.
  • Don Reindl, merchandising and communications supervisor, Falken Tire Corp.
  • Jim Davis, manager of public relations, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
  • Henry Kopacz, public relations and social media manager, Hankook Tire America Corp.
  • Steven Liu, director of consumer product marketing, Hercules Tire & Rubber Co.
  • S.B. Kim, marketing director, Kumho Tire U.S.A.
  • Stephen Ewing, product manager, Pirelli Tire North America Inc.
  • Jon Vance, senior director of product marketing, TBC Wholesale.
  • Jim Mayfield, senior director of product planning and technical services, Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp.
  • Bob Abram, product planning manager, Yokohama Tire Corp.

5 key consumer qualities

When asked, “How would you define the consumer who buys P-metric light truck tires?” Jim Davis, manager of public relations for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., came up with five attributes. He says they:

  1. drive a lot, “to work, for work (and) kids’ activities.”
  2. have an active lifestyle, “often an outdoor recreation focus on the weekends.”
  3. depend on their truck and take care of it.
  4. go off-road for a purpose.

And the fifth? “Their vehicle is always ready,” he adds.

P-metric vs. Euro-metric, there is a slight difference

According to The Tire Rack, Euro-metric and P-metric tires in the same size, say, P225/60R16 and 225/60R16, “are equivalent in their dimensions with just slight differences in their load capacity calculations and inflation pressure tables. So if Euro-metric and P-metric tires have the same numeric size, the same tire performance category and the same speed rating, the two are considered equivalent and interchangeable if used in axle pairs or sets of four.”

Tire Rack recommends dealers and consumers defer to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressures provided in the vehicle’s owner’s manual or on the vehicle tire placard for the load-carrying capacity for either size tire.

To see more new tires in this segment, check out our digital verison here (see page 20).

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