UHP tires: Still a segmented market
2015 will not be the year the ultra-high performance tire category redefines itself as a streamlined segment of the tire business.
New UHP tire offerings are across the board. There are summer tires from Aeolus Tire America, Bridgestone Americas Inc. and Nokian Tyres North America, and a winter tire from Yokohama Tire Corp. All-season UHP lines are coming from Hankook Tire America Corp., Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc., Pirelli Tire North America Inc. and Vogue Tyre & Rubber Co. The assortment covers tires for passenger cars, crossover vehicles, SUVs, and even light trucks.
As David Shelton, director of marketing for Giti Tire (USA) Ltd. puts it, “Today’s ultra-high performance tire buyer is no longer just the performance-oriented enthusiast. The new UHP driver is becoming the norm.
“Along with the expectation of precise handling and stability of the past, the ride comfort, quiet and all-season capability of the UHP product are all of concern for a more ‘civilized’ motoring experience.”
Greg Hathcock, president of Vogue, says the company sees yet another opening in the already-segmented UHP tire market: customers buying vehicles with UHPs as original equipment who were disappointed the tires didn’t last as long as others they had owned previously.
“They were very much performance tires, and through the compounding, they weren’t getting the mileage they expected, and the replacement for those tires could be quite expensive,” Hathcock says. “So we wanted to offer an alternative (for the customer) who maybe didn’t need all the performance of a true UHP or a summer tire, but still wanted UHP performance and valued a smooth ride, a quiet ride and a 60,000-mile capability.”
“You put a pure summer tire on, it’s going to last 12,000 to 15,000 miles. It’s probably going to ride a little harsher, probably going to corner a little faster. But the vast majority of people we’ve talked to don’t need that capability.
“The vast majority of consumers are willing to trade off that performance for a smooth, comfortable ride.”
Modern Tire Dealer asked 30 manufacturers to spill the beans on their latest UHP products. Here’s who responded, and told us what they have coming in 2015.
The current year
Aeolus Tire America is making its Steering Ace Summer UHP AU04 available at the end of March. The AU04 is a step up from the SteeringAce A/S AU02 and is designed to improve handling, braking and tread wear performance. Launched at the 2014 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show, the tire features an advanced tread design with four longitudinal grooves linked with a V-shaped shoulder block to move water to avoid hydroplaning. The V-shaped horizontal grooves distribute noise, and the tread compound delivers optimum balance for wet and dry traction, fuel efficiency and long tread life. The AU04 is available in 38 sizes.
Atturo Tire Corp. is adding 14 tire sizes to its AZ850 UHP SUV and crossover tire line in 2015, including two new run-flat sizes. The tire line was launched last June. “The unique compound and tread design of the AZ850 were specifically engineered for the contemporary performance utility vehicle,” says Michael Mathis, Atturo’s co-owner and vice president of international marketing. “The result is a rubber compound that helps reduce rolling resistance, which, in turn, allows the tire to run cooler at high speeds. High-tensile steel belts and jointless nylon bands increase stability at high speeds and provide secure braking, handling and durability.” The new run-flat sizes, 245/50R18 and 255/55R18, target BMW X-series applications.
Bridgestone’s new extreme performance tire, the Potenza Re-71R, is coming in March. It will be available initially in 29 sizes ranging from 15 to 19 inches, with four additional sizes to be added later this year. Bridgestone is calling it an ultimate “track day” tire that also delivers dependable everyday performance. It’s designed with wide circumferential grooves, an angled directional tread pattern and a hydro-evacuation surface to provide effective drainage in wet conditions. A wide center rib promotes agile steering response, and an extreme shoulder block delivers high shoulder stiffness, which allows for confident cornering.
Hankook unveiled its newest brand, Laufenn, at the 2014 SEMA Show in November, and the line will include the Laufenn S Fit AS. The all-season tire comes with a 45,000-mile warranty and is available in 12 sizes for 17-inch fitments and nine sizes for 18-inch fitments. Its asymmetric, streamlined tread design provides optimized wet and dry performance, highly efficient drainage and increased grip. The long mileage tread compound allows for a long tread life, and the semi rib design offers enhanced stability and handling performance.
Hercules Tire & Rubber Co. is introducing a new UHP tire in 2015, but the company so far isn’t sharing the details. “It’s been a few years since Hercules has introduced a new UHP tire,” says Josh Simpson, vice president of marketing. “That’s why we’re so excited for the mid-year launch of an all new UHP offering. All that we can share at this time is that the all-season tire will feature outstanding technology and craftsmanship, very modern aesthetics and clean construction.”
Kumho is adding two UHP products to its lineup in 2015. The Ecsta 4X II KU22 is an all-season tire for 15- to 20-inch fitments. The 53 sizes will include both V and W speed ratings. It’s designed with an asymmetric tread and will be available by March. The company says it offers exceptional handling, year-round safety, all-weather traction, sure-footed cornering and a smooth and quiet ride. The Solus TA71 is coming in the second quarter of 2015. The touring all-season tire will include 38 sizes in 15- to 19-inch fitments with speed ratings of V and W. The tire’s asymmetric tread offers superb wet traction and exceptional winter handling, along with a smooth ride, premium comfort and long tread life, the company says.
Nokian is creating the zLine SUV summer tire to give drivers of the biggest SUVs sporty handling, control for demanding conditions and high wear resistance. With 24 sizes from 17 to 22 inches and V, W and Y speed ratings, the zLine uses Aramid sidewall technology to minimize damage to the tire’s sidewall. It’s the same strong fiber used in aviation and military applications. Rigid inside and outside shoulder areas connect with large block patterns bound together by longitudinal ribs. The stiff tread translates to excellent handling in the corners. The steering feel is precise even with a heavy load at high speed.
Pirelli showed off its new 2015 tire during its dealer meeting in November. The P Zero All-Season Plus was designed specifically with U.S. drivers in mind. It provides maximum performance in wet or dry conditions, including light snow. Inner block winter siping technology helps provide maximum snow traction, while lateral siping on the outer blocks ensures maximum cornering, dry grip and improved resistance to hydroplaning. Pirelli launched the tire with 15 sizes, and is adding 32 sizes in 2015, plus another 24 sizes in 2016.
Sentury Tire Americas is adding 16 run-flat sizes to its Landsail LS388 and LS588 in 2015: seven sizes for the LS388 in 16- and 17-inch diameters, and nine sizes for the LS588 in 18-, 19- and 20-inch diameters. The run-flat tires feature reinforced sidewalls, while the LS588’s tread offers better grip, traction and braking along with fuel savings from rolling resistance. Four longitudinal grooves plus sipes and grooves push water out from under the tire for better steering, braking and hydroplaning resistance. In the third quarter of 2015, Sentury will introduce an all-season tire with five UHP tire sizes.
Triangle Tyre Co. Ltd. is launching the Sportex line. The asymmetric pattern is replacing the former directional TR968 pattern, which the company says improves appearance and performance. The Sportex includes an optimized tread contact patch and large tread blocks for improved dry handling, three center grooves with lateral oblique grooves to help drain water and provide wet grip performance. Optimized pitch sequence, three silencer slots and a high-angle CL radial groove reduce noise. The Sportex will be available in 21 W- and Y-rated sizes from 16 to 24 inches in the second half of 2015, and another 13 sizes will be added in 2016.
Vogue is replacing its existing Signature V UHP tires with the Signature V Black line in March. The W-rated tires in 15 sizes (a 16th size will be added in August) are a step up from the Signature V’s V rating. Another big difference is the look of the tire. The gold V design will be replaced by an all-black sidewall. The Signature V Black tires will feature Vogue’s whisper tuning and comfort ride, as well as a 60,000-mile warranty.
In March Vogue also is adding the Signature V SCT line with seven sizes of V-rated UHP tires for SUVs, CUVs and light trucks on 18-, 19-, 20- and 22-inch rims.
Yokohama is adding seven sizes to its Advan Sport A/S, while also introducing the W drive V905. The new winter tire offers V and W speed ratings designed to grip in all conditions on passenger cars and crossover utility vehicles.
Tire introductions in 2014
These companies introduced UHP tires in 2014.
Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. introduced the Starfire WR in 2014. Its asymmetric tread design allows for cross-rotation which reduces heal-toe wear, promotes even wear, less noise and increased overall tread life. The inner tread is made up of smaller elements and higher density siping for wet weather conditions. The larger elements on the outside provide excellent dry handling and traction. The W-rated tire is available in 21 sizes.
Continental Tire the Americas LLC launched two new tires in 2014, both for specific retailers. The ContiForceContact was designed for the race track, but is road legal. Its block design is a step up from the ContiSportContact 5 P, with additional wide circumferential grooves in the center of the tread and bi-directional drainage grooves on the inside to remove water from the tire efficiently. It is sold only through Tire Rack Inc. Continental also created the ControlContact Sport AS exclusively for Discount Tire (Reinalt-Thomas Corp.)
Giti Tire introduced the GT Radial Champiro UHP, an all-season tire made from a new compound of styrene butadiene rubber and evenly distributed nanometer silica, which work together to enhance grip in wet, high and low temperatures and light snow conditions. The silica also reduces rolling resistance for increased fuel efficiency. The tire is available in 38 V, W and Y speed rated-sizes for 15- to 20-inch rims and includes a 45,000-mile limited tread warranty.
Hankook added two tires to its UHP lineup in 2014. The Ventus V12 evo2 features a cooling system of central grooves to disperse the heat generated during use. Those same grooves evacuate water from the contact patch, and aqua jets move more water to improve performance in wet conditions and reduce hydroplaning. The wing tip design of those jets reduces noise, and dimpling on the tire’s sidewall minimizes noise and vibration by reducing airflow turbulence. The Ventus S1 evo2 SUV includes the triple driveline tread block, a staircase arrangement on the outer rib blocks designed to increase the tire’s contact patch with the road as tire wear increases over time. The cooling system grooves are designed much like those of the V12 evo2, with the addition of an intercooler on the outside to control excessive heat buildup. Visual indicators give drivers a simple way to check tire wear and alignment.
Yokohama’s Advan Sport A/S is a tire for sport and luxury car drivers who demand great performance year-round. The all-season tire delivers exceptional handling in dry weather, rain and even light snow, along with superior ride comfort for a smoother, more enjoyable drive.
Two years or older
Here’s the roundup of what manufacturers said were their “latest” UHP tires.
Continental: G-Max AS-03 and ExtremeContact DW and DWS.
Cooper: Zeon RS3-A and Zeon RS3-S.
Falken: Azenis FK453.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.: Eagle Sport All-Season and Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season.
Horizon Tire Inc.: Crosswind All-Season.
Michelin: Pilot Super Sport All-Season 3, Pilot Sport Cup 2 and BFGoodrich g-Force Sport Comp-2.
Nexen Tire America Inc.: N’Fera SU1 and N’Fera RU5.
Omni-United USA: Radar Dimax R8, Radar Verenti R6, Radar RCX8 and Goodride SA07.
Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp.: Proxes 4 Plus. ■
Vogue eyes growth with UHP
Vogue Tyre & Rubber Co. entered the ultra-high performance tire market in 2012, doubled its sales in 2014, and this year is adding sizes, increasing the speed rating and expanding the lineup to cover SUVs, CUVs and light trucks.
“It’s a big deal for us,” says President Greg Hathcock.
And Hathcock isn’t thinking small. “We expect percentage growth to be pretty dramatic. This year an increase in units upwards of 30 to 40%, and double digit increases in units over the next several years.”
The new UHP tires will be in dealers’ hands in March.
See the "High and ultra-high tire market share for 2014" chart by clicking here.