Winter 2010-2011: not as harsh
Harsh best describes the 2009-2010 winter season in the United States. More than 60% of the country experienced below-normal, sometimes record-breaking cold temperatures.
In February, the national average temperature was 32.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2.2 degrees below the long-term average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The result was good for tire dealers in the U.S. and Canada. Between 14 million and 15 million winter tires were sold in 2009, a record.
Based on Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) data, that number may be propped up by Canadian shipments. Domestically, shipments of replacement “snow and traction tires,” which the RMA defines as having winter, all-terrain or traction treads, were down 7.3% in 2009 compared to 2008.
What can dealers expect this winter? The 2011 “Farmers’ Almanac,” which claims a success rate of between 80% and 85%, may have the answer.
Cold front to the east
The “Farmers’ Almanac,” which did a good job of predicting what the weather would be like last winter, says this year’s winter season will have a “split personality.” Specifically:
1. There will be colder-than-normal winter temperatures in the eastern third of the country from New England to Florida.
2. There will be milder-than-normal winter temperatures for the western states “from the Pacific Coast inland as far as the Rockies and the western Great Plains.”
3. There will be near-normal winter temperatures for the middle third of the country, which includes Minnesota, Wisconsin and Kansas.
The almanac expects three major storm tracks to account for a lot of hail, rain, sleet and snow across the U.S.
“One will be across the Gulf Coast and Southeast... from lower Texas across the South into the Mid-Atlantic region.” A second storm will bring “snowier-than-normal conditions” to parts of the Northern and Central Plains, Ohio River and Great Lakes regions.
As the storm moves eastward, colder-than-normal conditions will follow.
The third storm, represented by “disturbances sweeping in from the Pacific,” will lead to above-normal precipitation in parts of the Pacific Northwest.
When will snow start to fall? The almanac predicts the first snowfall will occur in the mountains of Montana during the opening days of October.
Plenty of winter tires
This year alone, six new winter tires — in plenty of sizes — have been introduced in preparation for the upcoming winter season.
They include the Bridgestone Blizzak WS-70 and Cooper Weather-Master WSC, which were showcased in Modern Tire Dealer’s March 2010 issue and can be accessed on this Web site.
Nitto SN2. The new Nitto SN2 was developed to provide traction and predictable handling in snow. It features an advanced silica compound that evacuates water and resists hardening at lower temperatures, which helps to maintain optimum traction on wet, icy and slushy roads.
Three-dimensional, multi-wave sipes incorporated into the overall tread design increase tread block rigidity, which enhances lateral and longitudinal stiffness. This provides better handling on dry and wet roads, and more grip on ice and snow-covered roads.
The tire is available in the U.S. exclusively through American Tire Distributors Inc. in 29 T-rated sizes ranging from 175/65R14 to 245/45R18.
Vredestein Wintrac Nextreme. Apollo Vredestein BV launched its newest ultra-high performance winter tire during the Reifen International Tyre Fair in Essen, Germany, earlier this year. The Wintrac Nextreme is the second winter tire Vredestein has developed in collaboration with the legendary Italian design house Giugiaro.
The winter UHP tire is available in 11 V-, W- or Y-rated sizes, with rim diameters ranging from 16 through 22 inches.
A special SUV version of the line, the Wintrac Nextreme SUV, will be available in seven sizes.
Uniroyal Tiger Paw Ice & Snow II. The tread pattern features a highly siped tread surface, deep tread grooves and a “winter adapted” tread compound, says the company. It not only meets the RMA’s severe snow traction performance requirements, but also is studdable.
“The tire is designed to perform in all weather conditions, but excels in cold, icy, wet and snowy weather,” says Andy Koury, winter category manager for Michelin Tire North America. “We used the latest technology to help the tire maintain adhesion and flexibility in low temperatures, thus improving its cold weather grip.”
The Tiger Paw Ice & Snow II is available in 29 sizes ranging from P155/80R13 to 225/50R17. Nine of the sizes feature the Tiger Paw Ice & Snow I design, which previously was available only in Canada.
No end to the trend
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. predicts winter tire sales will reach close to 14 million units in 2010, based on estimates from the RMA and Rubber Association of Canada. That is less than in 2009.
Steady increases over the next four years, however, will raise shipments to more than 15 million units in 2014 — five million more than in 2007.
The winter SUV and light truck tire segment is growing at an even faster rate, with shipments reaching 3.5 million units this year, and 5 million by 2014. The new Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice WRT is designed for SUVs and light trucks.
The tire features a “winter grip” tread compound designed for ice and snow covered roads, and a directional tread pattern that helps channel water and slush away from the tire.
In the center zone of the tread, two-dimensional blades “offer enhanced starting and stopping power on snow and ice,” according to the company. In the shoulder zone, 3-D Tredlock Technology blades help give the tire its wet and winter traction; the blades lock together for grip in turns. A rim protector helps protect the wheels against curb damage.
The tire is available in 16 sizes, broken out as follows: P-metric sizes (S-rated): six 16-inch and four 17-inch; LT sizes (Q-rated, Load Range E): two 16-inch, three 17-inch and one 18-inch.
Winter tire testing in Florida! -- Goodyear flies dealers to Air Force base
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. tested its new Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice WRT at Eglin Air Force Base in Eglin, Fla. Thanks to 990 tons of refrigeration, the base’s McKinley Climatic Laboratory can test tires on snow and ice.
The latest in the Ultra Grip line of Goodyear winter tires, the WRT, is designed for crossover vehicles, SUVs and light trucks.
It is available in 16 sizes ranging from P245/75R16 to LT275/70R18.
The sizes cater to vehicles like the Acura MDX, Toyota 4Runner, Chevy Tahoe, Hyundai Sante Fe, Dodge Ram 1500, Ford F-150 and Nissan Titan.
In September, Goodyear invited tire dealers from the United States and Canada to visit the lab. Inside, the temperature was 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Outside, it was 92 F.
Goodyear says the WRT competes against the Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V1, Blizzak DM-Z3 and Blizzak W965; and Toyo Observe Open Country G-02 Plus.
To see more photos from the event, visit Modern Tire Dealer’s Facebook page. — Bob Ulrich