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The Decade of the CUV Tire: There’s Still Room for More ‘Significant Growth’ by 2020

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The Decade of the CUV Tire: There’s Still Room for More ‘Significant Growth’ by 2020

CUVs are on the verge of running passenger cars off the road in America. Tire makers insist it’s not a matter of if it will happen. It’s when. And it signals good news for tire dealers, says Drew Howlett, product manager for light truck and SUV tires at Falken Tire Corp.

“There are over 40 million CUVs registered in the U.S., which equates to over 160 million CUV tires touching the ground today. Many of those CUVs were sold in the past five years, and many of the CUVs on the road today have yet to see their first replacement tire cycle.”

Howlett says CUVs represent one-third of vehicles sold in America, “and by 2020, nearly one CUV will be sold for every car sold.”

Bob Toth, director of industry relations for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., looks at even more aggressive estimates. “By 2018, the CUV segment is projected to become the largest segment within U.S. original equipment, surpassing the auto segment and twice as large as the pickup truck.”Todd Bergeson, senior manager of product planning and technical services for Toyo Tires U.S.A. Corp., says, combined, CUV and small SUV segments make up the fastest growing vehicle sub-segments in the U.S. aftermarket. “There are no signs of a reduction in consumer demand for small utility vehicles. Industry experts believe U.S. auto sales will remain flat for the next few years, which likely means that small SUVs and CUVs will steal share from the passenger car segment, which is more volatile than light truck.”

According to new vehicle sales data from the first three months of 2017 compiled by Good Car Bad Car, passenger cars maintain a clear lead on CUVs. But there’s evidence of a swing. Sales data shows the year’s top-selling CUV, the Nissan Rogue, out-sold the top-selling sedan, the Toyota Camry, by almost 18,000 units through the end of March.

To meet that growing demand, tire makers are investing in CUV product lines and expanding size offerings.“The CUV tire segment nearly doubled from 2010 to 2015,” says Fardad Niknam, director of light truck business development for Yokohama Tire Corp. “A continuation of the aggressive trend is unlikely through 2020, but significant growth is still expected.”

Brandon Stotsenburg, vice president of automotive for Kenda Tires USA, says the tire maker sees CUV tires gaining a larger share of replacement sales. “Because of recent trends, Kenda sees the CUV replacement tire market increasing at an above-average rate for the next three-to-five years.”

Steven Smidlein, North American senior vice president for Apollo Vredestein Tires Inc., calculates that “above-average rate” at 6.5% over the next three-to-five years.Some of that demand will come at the expense of tires for vans, points out Robert Waytashek, product marketing manager for Giti Tire (USA) Ltd. But the real difference will be seen in passenger tires, says Kyle Roberts, senior director of marketing for Nexen Tire America Inc. The tire maker estimates CUV tires “can match or surpass passenger tires within the next 10 years.”

With such a seismic shift on the horizon, Modern Tire Dealer asked tire manufacturers to talk about the distinguishing characteristics of a CUV tire, and also address the vehicle dynamics and ride properties consumers might miss out on if they don’t select a dedicated CUV tire.

MTD also has assembled 17 sales tips to help you close the CUV tire sale, plus the latest CUV tire products available in the U.S. Look for new CUV tires still coming to market in 2017.MTD: What distinguishes a CUV tire from its bigger brothers, the SUV tire or light truck tire?

Smidlein, Apollo Vredestein: The answer lies in understanding the difference between SUVs and CUVs. SUVs are truck-based, body-on-frame chassis; CUVs are more car-based, uni-body chassis. Owners of CUVs expect the performance of a car — comfort, handling and noise — along with the space of a SUV.

Michael Mathis, president of Atturo Tire Corp.: The two factors that distinguish a CUV tire from an SUV or LT model is the load capacity and speed rating. Typically, the load carrying requirement will be lower and the speed rating slightly higher than a base SUV or LT tire.

Justin Hayes, product manager for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC: The forces and accelerations placed on a tire are different when applied to a CUV. In general, a CUV will provide a more car-like ride and handling experience, while a SUV will feel more like a pickup truck. While there is some tire size overlap between the different vehicle segments, in general SUVs use larger tires similar to what are found on trucks, and CUVs utilize smaller tires due to the generally smaller wheel wells.Joe Maher, passenger tires product manager for Continental Tire the Americas LLC: CUV tires, like passenger car tires, are designed for traction, ride comfort and long wear. These are the same factors consumers look for when making a tire purchase. CUV-specific tires typically have these characteristics plus a more truck-like appearance and performance with features like more rim protector flange, outlined white letters, and a more robust looking sidewall. Many of these CUV tires also have some off-road capability since many of these vehicles are all-wheel drive and can be used in light off-road situations.

Scott Jamieson, director of product management for Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.: One distinguishing factor is the tire’s shape. The shape of a CUV tire provides a balance between the stability of a light truck tire and the handling of a passenger car tire. Handling is important as most CUV owners want their vehicles to handle like a passenger car, but also want tires that support the extra cargo carrying capacity of a CUV.Howlett, Falken: Could a highway all-season “H/T” non-LT tire design work on a CUV given the fitment is correct? Sure. But that tire won’t be optimized for modern crossover platforms. It was likely developed on a pickup truck with a body-on-frame construction and solid rear axle. Pickups tow more often and see payload and tongue loads more often than CUVs. Light truck tires have to be designed to handle these types of situations, and often end up compromising ride quality when applied to CUVs.

Waytashek, Giti: You will get a better ride experience and slightly crisper handling with a CUV tire versus a SUV or light truck tire. As for looks, CUV tires appear less rugged with a more premium touring design than a typical SUV/light truck tire. Although larger P-metric sizes are typically only offered as SUV/light truck tires, most CUV tire sizes are common with highway SUV/light truck tire sizes. The real distinction between the two is in the performance and appearance.Toth, Goodyear: Tire sizes specified for use on CUVs, SUVs and light trucks are commonly larger in diameter, with higher load capacities versus the smaller sizes used for passenger sedans. CUV tires offer the appropriate size and load-carrying capability for a specific CUV, as specified by the vehicle manufacturer.

Wes Boling, public relations manager for Hankook Tire America Corp.: In general, CUV tires will have a larger emphasis on road noise reduction and overall comfort than tires suited for light truck and full-size SUV applications. Light truck tires, as compared to CUV tires, often exhibit more of an emphasis on robust construction for load handling coupled with long tread life. Also, you will see CUV tires being offered in sizes not ordinarily found on light trucks.

Stotsenburg, Kenda: Due to the platform relationship to sedans, the consumer expects similar tire performance with emphasis on durability/wear and noise/ride often seen in grand touring tires. The aftermarket is looking for first and second replacement, which reflects the original equipment tire performance characteristics at a reasonable value, while the third and fourth replacements, particularly on high-volume sizes such as the 225/65R17, tend to emphasize price and durability more than handling, braking and noise.Size reflects the character of the CUV as an elevated platform with larger diameters representing an aesthetic desire at both the OE and replacement levels. There is a higher percentage of 18-inch or larger tires.

Tom Carter, technical communications for Michelin North America Inc.: CUVs and SUVs are sophisticated with advanced safety systems. A good tire is an essential part of that link. A dedicated CUV/SUV tire is going to “feel right” to the driver and to the safety systems on board mainly by providing proper cornering power and traction. Sticking with a similar tire to the OE tire will help keep consumers happy.

There is no hard and fast classification or agreement between OEMs and tire makers on what is a CUV or SUV. For one automaker a CUV may be closer to an SUV for another manufacturer. In general, I think a tire is more suited for a CUV versus an SUV if it is more touring oriented, is possibly smaller in diameter and width, and places less importance on off-road traction.

Roberts, Nexen: Size is typically the distinguishing factor. CUV tires are mainly under 65 series with H or V grade, and SUV/LT tires are mainly 70 and 75 series with S or T grade.

Hans Dyhrman, director of marketing for Nokian Tires Inc.: A CUV tire is closer to a passenger tire in terms of its ability to deliver a smooth and comfortable ride.Enrico Ongis, director of product and planning for Pirelli Tire North America Inc.: Size range is one distinguishing factor because CUV tires are in a size range between passenger and SUV vehicles. CUV products do not contain the higher load range tires (LRC/D/E) which are typically found in the LT and some large SUV products. As a result, these CUV products have a limited towing capacity, and are not appropriate for vehicles with the capacity for towing the high loads such as light trucks and large SUVs.

Bergeson, Toyo: There is no clear line that can be drawn between a CUV and a small SUV. It’s up to the vehicle manufacturer as to how they classify their new models. Does CUV mean “compact utility vehicle” or “crossover utility vehicle?” However you want to translate it, these CUVs and small SUVs have specific performance requirements that differ from larger trucks and passenger cars. Our Open Country Q/T is engineered specifically for these CUV and small SUV applications. We designed the tire to be quiet which is important on a uni-body constructed vehicle. We also designed the tire to have a comfortable and compliant ride, while offering cornering and steering stability.Brian Fjeldsted, vice president of marketing for Vogue Tyre and Rubber Co.: The CUV is replacing cars and consumers are looking for car-like features. CUV buyers typically are not looking for off-road capabilities versus traditional SUV consumers who are more interested in off-road capability. Size is not a distinguishing factor.

Niknam, Yokohama: Size is one factor because there isn’t a lot of size sharing between CUVs and true body-on-frame SUVs. Vehicle size, weight and balance play a role in the design process as CUVs are designed to be more car-like and SUVs are still very truck-like.

MTD: What happens if a consumer chooses a touring tire for his/her CUV? What’s the effect on vehicle dynamics when a CUV is riding on a touring tire instead of a dedicated CUV tire?

Smidlein, Apollo Vredestein: A touring tire with good ride comfort, long mileage, low noise and good enough all-season properties is not very different from a CUV tire. However, touring tires are S- and T-rated, while crossover tires are more H- and V-rated, making them suitable for high speed driving and handling compared to touring tires.

Hayes, Bridgestone: It’s highly dependent on the tire and vehicle platform to which the tire is applied. We recommend a driver take their vehicle to a qualified tire retailer and have a discussion about their vehicle type, driving style, expected road conditions and other needs. We also recommend the driver and tire sales associate check to see what the OE load index and speed rating are for the vehicle. If cars and CUVs, or CUVs and SUVs, share a tire size, it’s possible the load index or speed rating could vary between the different applications, and this is a consideration drivers should discuss with their tire retailer.Jamieson, Cooper: It is always best for drivers to select tires that are designed to provide peak performance for their specific vehicle. When drivers make the decision to use touring tires on their CUVs, they should expect performance trade-offs.

Maher, Continental: Many CUVs sizes are also touring sizes. I cannot speak for all tire manufacturers, but Continental takes into account the most appropriate vehicle applications in the design. Our touring tires do fit CUVs. Some CUV consumers see their vehicle much like a touring sedan and a touring tire fits this application fine. When the consumer sees their CUV more as a utility vehicle, they will be better suited to choose a tire with a CUV design.

Howlett, Falken: Could a passenger car touring tire in the correct size and speed rating work for a CUV? Sure. However, the higher loads and higher center of gravity of a CUV compared to a sedan place a large amount of pressure on the shoulders of CUV tires under cornering and can cause premature tire wear. Passenger car touring tire designs typically don’t see this type of environment during the product development phase. Developing a tire specifically for the intended CUV platform allows tire profiles, footprints, construction, and tread pattern rigidity to be optimized for the target vehicle.

Toth, Goodyear: A touring radial tire would generally provide a firmer ride with more responsive handling versus a standard passenger radial, and would perform well on a CUV, provided the touring radial selected is the appropriate size and load carrying capacity as specified by the vehicle manufacturer, and the manufacturer’s loading/inflation specifications are followed.

Boling, Hankook: Most tires are optimized to be fitted to specific vehicle types, and CUV tires are no different. Although CUVs are most often based on passenger car platforms, things such as ride height, center of gravity and overall weight can create different driving dynamics. CUV tires are constructed differently than touring tires in order to withstand greater overall load. A driver could possibly experience things such as exaggerated sidewall flex or shorter-than-expected tread life when using a typical passenger car touring tire on a CUV.

Stotsenburg, Kenda: It is important the tire dealer select a tire which, at minimum, meets the vehicle’s required load index and speed rating specified for the vehicle. Secondly, the dealer should find a tire which reflects the intended use for the end-user regarding loads, highway versus off-road, and all-season versus primarily winter driving.

A properly designed CUV tire will have a footprint which accommodates the varying loads of all purpose usage while continuing to meet the handling, braking and wet performance characteristics of those vehicles. Properly designed CUV tires are slightly softer for improved ride comfort and, therefore, may have less responsive handling compared to a touring tire. Less responsive handling is generally preferred for CUV vehicles for improved overall stability.

Carter, Michelin: I don’t think it’s that simple where you can definitively say a touring class tire will do this and CUV tires will do that. Some CUVs will require LT tires and some will need passenger tires. There are too many other variables and factors like the brand, construction, and tire line attributes, etc. In general the CUV tire is probably more oriented for traction and is likely engineered to take the load and power of the CUV. For vehicle dynamics, some of the systems, like forward collision warning/auto braking really rely on long lasting performance from the tires. That is, they count on tires to stop well when new and when worn. These are important safety systems that are quickly evolving and improving, and high performing tires will be an important part in helping automakers ensure these systems are working as designed.

Roberts, Nexen: The biggest difference between CUV tires and passenger tires is the tread block stiffness is higher and the structure of the tire is reinforced on a CUV pattern. This helps prevent rolling and loss of grip on a CUV which is typically heavier than a sedan model that operates on the same chassis platform. If the CUV was riding on passenger tires the weight distribution ratio would be too high, making the vehicle unsafe.Dyhrman, Nokian: For most consumers, there is very little impact to vehicle dynamics when choosing a touring tire over a CUV-specific tire. Most significant differences between the products lie in style design and look of the tire.

Ongis, Pirelli: Since the customer requirements for noise and comfort are typically the same for both segments, the consumer may not notice an immediate difference. However, some of the CUV products are designed with a deeper tread depth to reach the targets for mileage warranty. So, the consumer could see some reduction in tread wear, depending on the size and tread depths. In all cases, it is important to be sure that the tires fitted have the proper speed code and load index as specified by the vehicle manufacturer.

Niknam, Yokohama: That’s always a possibility that some of our consumers will decide to use normal passenger tires or SUV tires for their CUV vehicles because the common sizes exist. Usage of a passenger touring tire on a CUV often creates faster wear, due to weight distribution on the vehicle, and a compromise in handling. However, it may provide better fuel efficiency on the vehicle.

MTD: Tell us about your latest CUV tires.

Apollo Vredestein: The Quatrac 5 is the one-tire answer for all weather conditions. Drivers don’t have to compromise safety or steering precision, and the tire offers excellent braking and handling on all wet surfaces, as well as snow. It’s optimized for stability, acceleration and handling.

Atturo: The Trail Blade X/T is a hybrid all terrain tire. It features aggressive off road style, with a civilized highway performance and true trail capability. The X/T is offered in several sizes targeting CUV applications such as 235/65R17 and 235/60R18.

BFGoodrich: The BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport tire is aimed at the CUV market, and the Advantage T/A Sport LT fitments are coming to market in August. The tire delivers a combination of performance and versatility, with steering response, handling and durability combined with flexibility to prepare drivers for a wide range of weather and road conditions. The Advantage T/A Sport includes a 70,000-mile warranty.

Bridgestone: The Bridgestone Dueler H/L Ecopia 422 is a dedicated CUV tire line that combines year-round traction, handling and comfort, along with reduced environmental impact. The fuel saver sidewall compound helps lower rolling resistance by returning more energy back to the tire, and helps reduce heat generation. Continuous ribs provide traction and reduce heat buildup while also decreasing noise. Circumferential grooves push water out of the footprint to resist hy  droplaning.Cooper: The Cooper Evolution H/T was created specifically with the CUV customer in mind. It delivers a comfortable ride, responsive handling, and all-season traction with a 60,000 mile warranty. Premium features include StabilEdge technology for enhanced handling and dry tracking stability and 3D Micro-Gauge siping to maintain wet traction and handling. The Cooper Evolution H/T also includes a silica tread compound and tread profile that provide even wear and long tread life. This tire covers 28 popular sizes to meet the needs of the growing CUV market.

Falken: The Falken Ziex CT50 A/S offers limited sizing availability in a dedicated CUV highway all-season tire. The tire has been selected as OE on modern crossovers such as the Mazda CX-9. In the fourth quarter of 2017, Falken will release the Falken Ziex CT60 CUV A/S tire developed specifically for the crossover tire market. The Ziex CT60 already has been selected as OE by several automakers.

Goodyear: The Assurance WeatherReady is a traction tire for CUV owners, available in 12 of the top 15 sizes. It combines a comfortable, quiet ride with the ability to help consumers handle all weather conditions. The tire features Evolving Traction Grooves with like-new traction as the tire wears; 3-D Tredlock Technology Blades to provide predictable traction in turns when the weather changes; and a sweeping, asymmetric tread design that forces water away to support control in rainy or slick conditions.

Hankook: The Dynapro HP2 is a CUV-specific tire that was developed to deliver low noise levels, improved tread wear, low rolling resistance and performance in both dry and wet weather scenarios. A high-stiffness center block and wide tread width deliver handling performance while silencer sipes help prevent unwanted road noise. Radial direction sipes provide improved handling in dry conditions while four channel circumferential grooves aid in water evacuation to resist hydroplaning on wet road surfaces.

Kenda: The Klever S/T is designed for consumers looking to find the ultimate combination of performance and value. It boasts a 600 A A UTQG rating as well as a 60,000-mile limited manufacturer’s warranty. Optimized for ride comfort and long tread life to balance strong wet, dry and light snow performance with steering response, the Klever S/T is a reliable replacement for OE tires.

Michelin: The Premier LTX covers CUVs, as well as SUVs and light trucks. It features EverGrip tread technology that prolongs wet traction over time, giving drivers peace of mind and improved control. The technology also includes expanding rain grooves that widen and new grooves that emerge as the tire wears to resist hydroplaning. Sunflower oil keeps the compound flexible in lower temperatures, and tread blocks and sipes act like biting edges to get through snow. It’s available in 47 sizes ranging from 16-inch to 22-inch diameter wheel sizes.

Nexen: The N’Fera RU5 is a dedicated CUV tire available in 20 sizes ranging from 18- to 20-inch rim sizes with speed ratings of V and W. It includes a 65,000-mile tread wear warranty as well as road hazard protection and 24-hour roadside assistance.Nokian: The eNtyre 2.0 premium all-season tire is available in a variety of CUV fitments. It was specifically designed for the North American market and uses an inside/outside tread pattern, special groove designs and modern silica compound to improve dry road handling, tread life, hydroplaning properties and wet grip without compromising winter grip . It also features noise dampening technologies and has low rolling resistance. The tire provides drivers safety, comfort and performance in an environmentally friendly tire. It’s available in 46 sizes ranging from 15 to 19 inches and in T, H and V speed ratings.

Pirelli: Pirelli has sizes dedicated to CUVs in the Cinturato P7 All Season/Plus and the Scorpion Verde All Season/Plus lines. Cinturato products were designed to provide performance in all weather conditions, with the replacement “Plus” version adding extra emphasis on longevity. The Scorpion line follows a similar model, and offers all-weather performance, but also possesses some light off-road capabilities.

Toyo: The Toyo Tires Open Country Q/T offers a quiet, comfortable ride, long-lasting tread life and attractive design. Built for a wide range of vehicles, from CUVs to luxury SUVs, this premium all-season tire provides confident handling and stability. If you think of a vehicle’s tires as an important component of a vehicle’s suspension system, the Open Country Q/T complements CUVs and small SUVs.

Vogue: The Signature V Black SCT tire is manufactured with Vogue’s Miracle Tread Compound infused with silica for traction and responsiveness. The addition of wide, circumferential grooves in the tread design allows for exceptional all-weather traction and better handling in wet weather conditions. The tire features Vogue’s signature Whisper Tuning and VogueTech Comfort Ride engineering and is backed by a pledge which includes a 60,000-mile warranty and a 30-day buy-and-try guarantee to ensure customer satisfaction.

Yokohama: Loaded with premium technology, the Geolandar G055 is specifically designed to deliver confidence, value and comfort to drivers of today’s crossover vehicles and minivans. Yokohama’s specially formulated orange oil compound provides tread life and all-season traction. The G055 was designed to drive and feel like the middle ground between the Geolandar H/T G056 and the grand touring offering, the Avid Ascend.    ■17 tips to help you close the sale

Tire manufacturers offer their best advice to help dealers steer CUV consumers to the appropriate tire.

Smidlein, Apollo Vredestein: When a consumer defines his vehicle as a car or truck, he is in some way defining his expectations. Comfort, noise, ride and handling are the performance parameters that are more relevant for a CUV consumer.

Mathis, Atturo: Don’t limit the offerings to a CUV owner to an OE-type replacement tire. Investigate how they like to use the vehicle beyond commuting to see if there is an opportunity to upgrade the customer to a more exciting tire option, as well as a wheel package.

Tom Sullivan, public relations manager for Michelin’s BFGoodrich brand: Tires for CUVs should be selected by the size, speed index, and load requirements stated on the vehicle door jamb placard. Also, the consumer’s driving style, needs and usage conditions should be considered in selecting the right tire for them.

Hayes, Bridgestone: Our research shows that drivers of CUVs, particularly drivers of CUVs with all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, believe their vehicles will perform to a certain level in wintery conditions simply due to the vehicle type. While it’s true all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive technology help in some driving maneuvers  — for example, it can help with acceleration — dedicated winter CUV tires are optimized for performance in the cold and unique conditions winter brings. With enhanced stopping power in particular, drivers of CUVs will very much benefit from this technology.

Maher, Continental: When consumers see their CUV as more of a utility vehicle, they will be better suited to choose a tire with a CUV design. CUV-specific tires typically have touring-type characteristics plus a more truck like appearance and performance. Many of these CUV-specific tires also have some off-road capability since many of these vehicles are all-wheel drive and can be used in light off-road situations.Jamieson, Cooper: With a CUV tire, it’s all about comfort! CUV tires typically offer a tread design that provides a smooth and quiet ride. Also, a consumer is more likely to get a long, even tread life out of a tire that was designed with their specific vehicle type in mind. Most people with CUVs are using these vehicles as the family driver, meaning they put many, many miles on them with the family in tow, so mileage is important. CUV tires also typically offer lower rolling resistance for fuel efficiency and all-season performance.

Howlett, Falken: Our market research reveals CUV owners care about safety above all other attributes of tires purchased, followed by reliability and longevity. These are the exact same reasons why CUV-specific tires are the right choice for today’s customer. Having a tire that was developed for a particular subset of vehicles maximizes safety by ensuring the tires were developed and tested in real world conditions. The footprint of the tire was optimized for CUV vehicles, ensuring the shortest possible stopping distance in inclement weather, as well as even tread wear across the tread pattern.

Toth, Goodyear: As with any tire sale, the most important aspect of the process is understanding the consumer’s needs and delivering the tire that best meets them. Some considerations may be responsiveness versus all-season traction, or long wear and soft ride. Because CUV tires can be sporty or sedan-like, and used for everything from off-roading, pulling a boat, or everyday activities, engaging with the consumer and finding his or her balance between comfort and performance will lead to customer satisfaction.Boling, Hankook: Stress that CUV tires were designed with their specific vehicle type in mind in order to deliver optimal performance. Compared to your everyday passenger touring tire, a CUV tire is constructed to undertake the more rugged demands that a CUV can occasionally be subject to.

Stotsenburg, Kenda: Ask questions to know how the vehicle is being used to understand the best application and the prioritized needs for the driver and/or tire purchaser. Tires in 17- to 22-inch sizes will often be a larger monetary investment for the purchaser than anticipated. It will be important to understand the end user’s expectations for price and prepare options to assist them to find a good value.

Take the time to let the end user know the benefits of purchasing the tire for the CUV goes beyond meeting the size, load index and speed rating. In many cases, the end user can have a tire which will reflect similar performance as the OE tires at a value price if that’s what is needed.

Specifically focus on the noise, ride, wet and dry handling and wet and dry braking. If they are in light snow climates, a tire which has tested well in those conditions should be shown.

Carter, Michelin: Just like any consumer tire transition, we think asking about driving style and what they like about the vehicle is a great place to start. If they like the traction in wet and snow, then a CUV/SUV tire with excellent traction is well-suited for them. Next, it makes a lot of sense to talk about long lasting performance. Today’s CUVs are sophisticated with advanced safety systems. A good tire is an essential part of that link. A dedicated CUV tire is going to “feel right” to the driver and to the safety systems on board, mainly by providing proper cornering power and traction. Sticking with a similar tire to the OE chosen tire will help keep consumers happy.

Roberts, Nexen: Sell the safety message. I think consumers can easily understand the weight differentials between the vehicle types and that the tire they use should be designed for the correct application.

Dyhrman, Nokian: The best way for a dealer to sell any tire is to have a conversation with the customer about their driving experience to understand what attracted them to a CUV in the first place. Were they looking for a car that rides smooth on dry roads but also performs well when conditions deteriorate in rain or snow storms? Did they want a vehicle that felt safe in rainy or slushy conditions and drove straight without hydroplaning?

Once a dealer understands why a customer purchased a CUV in the first place, and the features that are most important, he or she can explain the benefits of fitting the vehicle with tires that meet the customer’s needs and driving habits.Ongis, Pirelli: The critical customer benefits that should be highlighted are: low noise and comfort equal to that seen in passenger cars; confidence in wet stopping and resistance to hydroplaning; in the northern climates, traction to get home in the snow; and a tread wear warranty for mileage.

Chris Gomez, product marketing manager for light truck, passenger and ultra-high performance tires, Toyo: What is vital to ensure a proper tire selection for a CUV owner, or any owner for that matter, is understanding the usage, consumer needs and expectations. As a result of those inputs a tire dealer can then place the customer in the right product, ensuring customer satisfaction. A dealer may have a CUV owner who works as a regional sales manager and is driving to visit clients multiple days a week covering a couple hundred highway miles. This customer may have a higher likelihood of favoring a tire with a higher life expectancy than ride comfort due to the demand placed on the vehicle. Another customer may work from home and commuting is limited to errands in the neighborhood and family activities like school and sports. This customer may be more likely to favor a quiet, comfortable ride due to local street driving habits.

Fjeldsted, Vogue: Safety is important to CUV buyers. They are attracted to CUVs because the commanding seat height gives them a feeling of confidence. Selling the safety and confidence benefits of CUV tires should be the first priority.

Niknam, Yokohama: We want our dealers to point out optimum wear performance, comfortable ride and excellent fuel efficiency as our three main factors on CUV products. Again, our CUV tires are designed for CUVs, and that’s the best way they can truly experience the perfect handling on the vehicle.

Charting CUV sales in the U.S.: A Rogue leads the way

For the past five years, the Honda CR-V has been the top-selling utility vehicle in the U.S. And sales figures through March 2017 show the CR-V is on track to beat last year’s total sales of 357,335 vehicles. Through the first three months of the year, sales are up 32.1% compared to the first quarter of 2016, according to data compiled by Good Car Bad Car.And yet, the CR-V isn’t the top selling CUV in America so far in 2017. The current leader is the Nissan Rogue, with 101,421 units sold through March compared to 94,057 for the CR-V.

As a point of comparison, Good Car Bad Car notes the U.S. passenger car sector lost more than 200,000 sales in the first quarter of 2017, and is on track to lose around 825,000 sales by year’s end. Year-to-date sales are down for each of the top five selling passenger cars in the U.S.: the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Altima and Honda Accord.

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