Mix and match: Sometimes there is a fine line between high performance and broad-line
The mix between high performance and broad-line continues to blur. According to Modern Tire Dealer's 2007 High Performance Tire Survey, the retail tire sales split between the two is 53% and 47%, respectively.
As high and ultra-high performance tire construction evolves, that gap will close, and the segments will have to be redefined.
High performance touring
Falken Tire Corp.'s new tire, previewed at the 2006 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show, is a good example of this trend, with a foot in the broad-line market and another in the high performance market. It even is available in UHP sizes.
"The Ziex ZE-912 is Falken's premier workhorse in the all-season performance touring class," says Brand Manager Nick Fousekis.
The tire features a hybrid-asymmetric tread pattern "that maximizes tire rotation options for improved TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) compatibility." Rotation Wear Indicators also help ensure long mileage and flat, even tread wear.
There are two sets of sizes, 65 in all, for the Ziex ZE-912 line, with more to come. They range from 185/65HR14 to 265/35ZR18.
The 60/65 series touring tire sizes are backed by a 65,000-mile tread wear warranty. The 23 sizes cover 95.2% of an estimated 23.14 million tire market, says Falken.
The 42 UHP sizes are covered by a 40,000-mile warranty and cover 93.5% of a 12.57 million tire segment. Together, the 65 sizes cover 33.7 million tires. Falken markets the Ziex ZE-912 in the same tier as the Bridgestone Potenza RE960A/S, Yokohama Avid H4s/V4s, Toyo Proxes TPT, Pirelli P6 Four Seasons and Continental ContiProContact.
The ZE-912 is the successor to the ZE-512, according to Fousekis. "However, exclusive/limited distribution of the ZE-512 will continue."
Custom wheel trends
Off-the-road wheels and dub, or 20-inch, sizes each had a strong presence on the "Performance Tires & Wheels" trade show floor. The Tire Industry Association sponsored the special SEMA Show section.
"Off-road wheels are really hot," said Stewart Mawyer, sales manager for Rev Wheel LLC., which offers one-piece aluminum off-road wheels. In addition to its namesake brand, the Riverside, Calif.-based company offers a series of OE replicas. It also is an Arelli wheel distributor.
"The off-road wheel segment seems to be setting the pace for everybody, mostly for the off-road look."
Another California exhibitor on the trade show floor, Allied Wheel Components Inc., offers a line of Rock-a-Thon aluminum and steel bead lock racing wheels for rock-crawling and four-wheeling events.
American Racing Equipment Inc., which acquired Weld Wheels Industries Inc. last September, showcased not only ATX all-terrain wheels, but also its own "off-road inspired" light truck and SUV design, the Trench. The six-spoke Trench wheel is available in 16x8, 17x8, 20x8.5 and 22x9.5 sizes with a silver (with a diamond cut face), glossy black or chrome finish.
TIS (for Twenty Inches Strong) Industries LLC displayed its luxury sport wheel line in dub sizes, including the first 30-inch modular wheel in production. The eight-spoke, three-piece wheel was introduced in combination with the 315/30R30 Pirelli Scorpion Zero Asimmetrico at the New York Auto Show last year.
3-D Wheels Inc. out of Texas was selling its limited edition aluminum alloy wheels at the show. "We sell to wholesale dealers," said Marketing Director Will Scott. The wheels feature a three-dimensional design.
"We use a cast wheel and a cast attachment piece and then bolt them together like a forged wheel, creating a dimension. The faster the wheel goes, the more the attachment looks like it's separating from the wheel."
The company's 2007 line-up is made up of five styles: the 24-inch Vomit and Revenge; the 22-inch Hypnotic and Kaos; and the 20-inch Spider. "In the aftermarket, it's all about plus-sizing," he said. Anything over 24 inches will require "some (vehicle) modification."
The 3-D wheels are pricey, but Scott says vehicle owners will spend, on average, 10% of their vehicles' cost on tires and wheels.
Great Ziex!: Sixty-five sizes not enough? Wait until 2008!
If the size lineup for the new Falken Ziex-912 is not complete enough, be patient. Eleven sizes will be added in 2008, bringing the line's size complement to 76.
Falken Tire Corp. will add the following sizes next year: 215/65TR16, 235/65TR16 and 225/65HR16; 225/60TR17, 215/60TR17, 235/60TR17 and 235/65HR17; 235/65TR18, 225/55TR18 and 235/55VR18; and 255/50VR19.