New and improved or status quo?: After an outpouring of sizes, specialty tire lines may be ready for consolidation. Try telling that to the ATV makers
Joe Inchiostro Sr. knows all about ATV tires. You might say he follows ATV trends religiously.
"We started out with 18 line items when ATVs were three-wheelers," says Inchiostro, who is president and co-owner, with his brother, Larry, of St. Louis Wholesale Tire Inc., a specialty tire distributor based in Missouri. "Now we have 400."
A year-and-a-half ago, he created a separate pricing catalog for ATV tires. He calls it "The ATV Tire Bible." It contains 400 pictures of available tread patterns, plus all available sizes. He also produces a separate wall chart highlighting the 100 most popular tread patterns.
St. Louis Wholesale Tire sells Goodyear, Dunlop, Maxxis, Kenda, ITP, Titan, Carlisle, Nankang and Cheng Shin brand ATV tires. It also offers a variety of brands manufactured by Greenball Corp. In addition, the company offers specialty tires ranging from four-inch lawn and garden tires to 35-inch OTR tires.
Inchiostro says ATVs continue to evolve. "They are getting larger and going to four-wheel drive."
John Deere manufactures a six-wheel ATV, the Gator. "It's sort of like a mini-truck," he says.
ATVs also have expanded beyond their recreational roots. They are being used more and more in farming and construction. Organized racing in sand and mud and up mountains is becoming more popular. All these different uses require different tread patterns and sizes.
Tire dealers are becoming a bigger part of the market as well. Much like motorcycle dealers, ATV dealers used to corner the market on ATV tires. "But because of the tremendous growth in this market, ATV owners are now asking tire dealers for ATV tires," says Inchiostro. "I wholesale ATV tires primarily to tire dealers."
ATV tire sizes range from six inches to 28 inches in height, according to Inchiostro. A small ATV for a child might require size 12x5x6 (145/70x6) tires. A large ATV can use up to 28x12x12 tires. The two most popular sizes for the aforementioned Gator ATV are 22x10x8 and 25x12x9.
The ATV tire market is slowly radializing. Inchiostro estimates less than 5% of ATV tires are radials. But he sees that increasing.
A number of tire manufacturers are addressing the growing ATV market with new products. Other new specialty tires in the lawn and garden and recreational trailer segments also are highlighted.
Tireco Inc.: "We will be rolling out our newly updated ATV line later this year, which will include new mud and new all-purpose treads," says Victor Li, director of marketing. Overall, ATV tire sizes are being consolidated.
Tireco recently introduced two lawn and garden tires. The new premium service I-1 tubeless rib implement tire is available in three sizes: 9.5L15 8PR, 10L15 8PR and 11L-16 8PR. A new four-ply, 26x12-12 Turf tire also is available.
"We were asked by our customers to make the tires more durable and eco-friendly (longer wearing and fewer flats). Therefore, we've also upgraded the vast majority of our sizes and tread patterns to a heavier ply rating."
The company also released its ST235/80R16 eight- and 10-ply Loadmax trailer tires and aluminum mod wheels.
Titan Tire Corp.: The latest Titan ATV tire, the LSW ATV, is available in two sizes. The tire contains deep lugs and Titan's Max Traction Ridges.
Titan also has introduced its LSW 430 turf tire, which is designed for delicate turf conditions like golf courses, sod farms and ballparks. The radial tire has rounded shoulders to minimize turf damage and a wide footprint for stability and reduced ground disturbance. It fits John Deere 5000 series tractors, Massey Ferguson 1100 series tractors and similar models.
Maxxis International-USA: Marketing Manager Michael McGunagle says the company soon will be promoting its new ATV wheel line. Two styles are tentatively scheduled to be introduced by mid-summer. Maxxis also is looking at adding sizes to its Big Horn solid white letter ATV tire line.
Maxxis is sponsoring a number of ATV racers in both the Grand National Cross Country Series and World Off-Road Championship Series.
The Maxxis 8008 ST Radial recreational trailer tire, previously available only in blackwall sizes, now is available with raised white letters as well. "We just wanted to give it a little more style," adds McGunagle.
Primex Tire: Primex is looking at offering a line of ATV tires in the future, "but at present time, there are no concrete plans," says a Primex representative.
Interco Tire Corp.: The company is planning to add a second-generation version of its popular Super Swamper Vampire ATV tire, "depending on how the economy goes," says Interco Vice President David Guidry. "This will be a lighter tire" that will not specifically target mud applications. "You need something that works in all conditions."
ATV enthusiasts are not buying as many ATV tires as they used to, according to Guidry. "Most new ATVs come with a nice original equipment tire. Depending on terrain, these tires are probably good for five to six years. We're not talking about something that people are re-shoeing every year, like a front-wheel-drive car. There isn't a lot of (regular) replacement business."
Greenball Corp.: The new Transmaster radial trailer tire is available in seven 13- through 15-inch sizes. "Radial trailer tires offer a longer life and a smoother ride than bias trailer tires," says Steve Coles, Greenball's customer service manager.
However, to satisfy demand for bias trailer tires, Greenball also has introduced the Towmaster Metric trailer tire, also in seven sizes.
Kenda U.S.A. (American Kenda Rubber Co.): "Status quo" best sums up Kenda's new product strategy in 2003. Sales Manager Hank Chang says most new size offerings are based on the request of the manufacturer, which can order in large-enough quantities to justify creating new molds.
"Right now, we are more focused on what we have, and getting more business from our competitors.... We are not rushing to (offer) new items at this moment." Supply from Taiwan and China is very good, he adds.
Industrial revolution: New tires target more severe applications
The industrial tire segment of the specialty tire market has become very competitive, says Victor Li, director of marketing for Tireco Inc. "And the cost for high-quality product... has become very reasonable."
Tireco also has taken steps to simplify its Nanco industrial tire program "by offering the more durable, longer wearing, higher ply-rated products that are being demanded by the industry."
Primex Tires rolled out a new skid steer tire, the Wearmax, several months ago. The Wearmax targets severe applications like mining, road construction and metal recycling operations. It comes in two sizes, 31x5x7 and 33x6x8.
Greenball Corp. recently introduced two new skid steer tires, the Power Trax and the Sure Trax. The Power Trax has a "block tread design" and is engineered for mining applications. The Sure Trax "is designed for all-purpose use on hard surfaces," says Steve Coles, Greenball's customer service manager. Both tires are available in two sizes: 10-16.5 and 12-16.5.