Tire trends: Predicting the future
When the Ford Model T was popular, tall, skinny tires were the replacement tires of choice. That was more than 100 years ago.
Is history about to repeat itself? Are we returning to, say, size 4.40x21 tires anytime soon?
We might be! Both Pirelli & Cie SpA and Bridgestone Corp. have developed concept tires that cater to that bygone era. (An in-depth look at the secretive research and development of tall, thin tires will appear in our August issue.)
Predicting the next tire trend, or what tire trends will have staying power, is the goal for all tire manufacturers. One trend that is gaining traction in the replacement market is the fight for market share in the mid-range segment.
Within the last few months, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. have launched broader-market tires aimed at the value-minded consumer. Goodyear, a tier one brand, is marketing its Goodyear Eagle Sport All-Season as a mid-level high performance all-season tire. The Cooper CS3 Touring tire is the “better” tire to the CS4 Touring’s “best” tire.
“The mid-range segment is really hot,” says Scott Jamieson, Cooper’s director of North American product management. “It’s a sweet spot for the consumer.”
‘Surprise! You have performance tires!’
“But I’m not a performance car driver. I drive a Mercury Milan!” Sound familiar?
The Milan may have been discontinued, but there are plenty of them out there with worn high performance original equipment tires. The same goes for other mid-size sedans.
When they come into your dealership, Goodyear has a new mid-level tire for them: the Goodyear Eagle Sport All-Season.
According to Modern Tire Dealer’s “2013 High Performance Tire Survey,” 97.6% of average non-sports car owners do not know the speed ratings on their tires. But many of them are driving on high or ultra-high performance tires. The Eagle Sport All-Season was designed to address the sticker shock that follows.
“It’s a performance tire that acknowledges the fact that the performance category is changing,” says Tara Foote, performance brand manager. “Consumers driving non-traditional performance cars enjoy the ride, and still want their (replacement) tires to perform — that’s non-negotiable. We also acknowledge that consumers are looking for a good value in this segment.”
The dual zone asymmetric tread pattern is designed for responsive handling, all-season grip and a smooth, quiet ride. Lateral angled grooves improve both cornering and tread wear compared to the tire it is replacing, the Goodyear Eagle GT. Full-depth sipes give the tire biting edges that continue to grip as the tire wears.
“If there are too many sipes, the crown ends up too soft, and you give up tread wear,” says Tim Lovell, project manager. “If there are too few sipes, there is less traction.”
Price-wise, the Eagle Sport All-Season competes against other “better” tires like the BFGoodrich Super Sport A/S, Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval A/S, General G-Max AS-03 and Bridgestone Potenza G019 Grid. (Bridgestone also has the Potenza RE92A in this category.) The tire is priced below the Michelin Pilot Exalto A/S.
The tire is available in 47 sizes, which Goodyear says covers 68% of this market segment. Seventeen are extra-load sizes. The V- and W-rated sizes are backed by a 50,000-mile limited tread wear warranty.
Lovell adds that the tire is “OE-tunable... a key area of focus for us.”
Value whether selling up or down
Cooper’s new CS3 Touring tire is very different from its “older brother,” the premium CS4 Touring. It is targeted for the mid-range touring segment, behind the CS4 and ahead of the Cooper Starfire. Its tread wear warranty is more limited. And it costs less.
From a technological standpoint, however, the CS3 is not only unique, but also superior to the CS4 in some ways. For example, the CS3’s 3D Micro-Gauge siping will be incorporated into the next generation CS4.
The three-dimensional siping, which was first used in the Cooper Zeon RS3-A, is “a premium feature with a mid-range price,” says Bruce Sanborn, product segment manager for Cooper’s North American Tire Division. The full-depth siping design helps the CS3 Touring maintain wet and dry traction throughout its life and maximizes tread element stability.
The tread pattern also features patent-pending Stabiledge technology. Grooves in the center and intermediate ribs are filled with “bumpers” that serve a two-fold purpose: They help keep the grooves open, and provide additional stability, resulting in enhanced dry traction and soft handling.
There are 15 more sizes in the CS3 Touring line than in the CS4 Touring line. Cooper backs the T-rated sizes with a 65,000-mile tread wear warranty, and the H- and V-rated sizes with a 50,000-mile warranty.
In contrast, the T-rated CS4 Touring is backed by an 80,000-mile warranty.
The CS3 replaces the Lifeliner GLS, which is eight years old. It will compete against the Hankook Optimo H418 and H426; Kumho Ecsta 4X KU22 and Ecowing KUH30; Uniroyal Tiger Paw; Yokohama Avid Enviger; Nexen CP641 and CP521; General G-Max AS-03 and Altimax HP; Toyo Extensa AS/HP; and Goodyear Integrity. “In most cases these examples are sold within approximately plus or minus 10% of the median price position in the mid-range segment,” says Jamieson. ■
Goodyear Eagle Sport All-Season: 47 sizes
15-inch (3): 195/65R15 91V to 195/55R16 85V
16-inch (9): 205/60R16 92V to 225/50R16 92V
17-inch (14): 215/55R17 94V to 255/40R17 94W
18-inch (13): 225/60R18 100V to 255/35R18 94W
19-inch (2): 245/40R19 94W and 255/35R19 96W
20-inch (6): 275/55R20 117V to 255/35R20 97W
Cooper CS3 Touring: 48 sizes
14-inch (5): 175/65R14 82T to 195/60R14 86H
15-inch (12): 185/65R15 88H to 205/60R15 91H
16-inch (21): 205/65R16 95H to 225/50R16 92V
17-inch (9): 215/65R17 99T to 225/50R17 94V
18-inch (1): 235/55R18 100V