Pinpointing the Modern M/T Tire Customer

Dec. 21, 2017

In our August cover story we analyzed the growth of the M/T tire market — 19 manufacturers have released 11 new tires in the last two years. Here’s a roundup of their latest offerings, plus their answers to an important question: Which consumer are you trying to reach? Are these tires for the enthusiasts seeking adventures, or their buttoned-down brethren chasing a certain look? Or both?

Michael Mathis, president of Atturo Tire Corp.: The Atturo Trail Blade M/T is marketed to all segments of the M/T market — those who need an off-road-capable tire on a regular basis for work, weekend off-road enthusiasts, and custom truck owners who want the menacing sidewall of our knife blade-inspired design. Of course, Atturo always speaks to the value-conscious consumer who wants to keep performance within reach.Brandon Sturgis, product manager for BFGoodrich off-road tires, Michelin North America Inc.: We call this consumer the “performance seeker.” It’s a driver who demands off-road performance, relies heavily on their equipment to get to the locations that matter to them, be it for camping, hunting, fishing or recreational off-roading. Driving is a pursuit of adventure for this consumer and we design these tires for those enthusiasts who push themselves and their vehicles to the limit. They are highly knowledgeable about their trucks and Jeeps and tires and aren’t interested in something that just looks tough; it has to back it up. While aesthetics are often important to them, it has to perform as well.

Maurice King, product manager for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC: We are targeting adventure seekers, weekend warriors and off-road enthusiasts with our M/T product and marketing efforts. Essentially, we are trying to reach two types of M/T consumers. The first M/T end user values aggressive off-road capability. They want traction and performance on dry rocks, wet rocks, creeks, mud and sand. The other M/T consumer we’re trying to reach is interested primarily in the look of the tire — they are seeking a rugged, tough aesthetic for their vehicle.Scott Jamieson, director of product management in North America for Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.: Consumers who use their Cooper Discoverer STT Pro tires for off-road driving are looking for a tire to take them where other tires can’t — across harsh terrain to new adventures. Others are looking for tires that provide cosmetic appeal to their vehicle through tread and buttress design, without giving up road manners.

Drew Howlett, product manager for light truck and SUV tires for Falken Tire Corp.: Falken is targeting the true off-road enthusiast with our WildPeak M/T, the consumer who goes off-road and explores for recreation or even competition. On the other hand, the WildPeak M/T was tested to ensure it works equally well for the lifted truck that never leaves the pavement, or at the opposite end of the spectrum, the consumer who truly needs the M/T to get to and from a remote location, where roads may not even exist.Barry Terzaken, light truck and SUV tire product manager in the Americas for Continental Tire the Americas LLC: We’re targeting two distinct groups — the serious off-road enthusiast, where the capabilities of the Grabber X3 shine, and the customer wanting that very aggressive look without actually going off-road, yet they require good on-road characteristics which the X3 also provides.

Bob Toth, director of industry relations for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.: Our M/T tire marketing targets the off-road enthusiast and the off-road enthusiast at heart.

Yg Lee, product manager for Hankook Tire America Corp.: We are targeting consumers who are looking for a high-performance tire that provides stability and traction in both on-/off-road conditions. Recreational thrill-seekers perfectly fit our “driving emotion” mantra, and we love meeting — and exceeding — their tire expectations.Steven Liu, senior director of proprietary brands for American Tire Distributors Inc., which owns Hercules Tire & Rubber Co.: We definitely want to reach the hard-core enthusiasts. We launched a campaign for the Terra Trac Traction Series in Petersen’s 4Wheel and Off-Road that features Lucas Oil Off Road driver Sarah Burgess, who drives on our Terra Trac M/T tires.

We believe that if we can convince the enthusiasts that our products perform, they will make the recommendations and the others will take their lead. Because at the end of the day, we need to capture those weekend warriors and casual enthusiasts; that’s where much of the market is right now. That’s why we’re also working with our dealers to emphasize  on a more one-to-one level that our Terra Trac M/T tires (and all of our Traction Series tires) offer road hazard protection and a 30-day test drive. That’s the “extra something” that helps our dealers seal the deal.

Brandon Stotsenburg, vice president of automotive for Kenda Tires USA: Kenda sees the off-road market in three types of customers. Avid off-roaders often have a dedicated vehicle and trailer for specific environments which could include desert, mud/trail or other activities depending on the geographic location. The work truck category includes individuals and businesses that require a strong performing M/T tire. And the aspirants are the “wanna-bes” who like the look and feel of the off-road vehicle. This sub-segment often demonstrates that the vehicle represents a lifestyle message, and the tire brand, tire look and on-road ride/noise levels are often more important than the actual off-road performance. These folks often will spend considerable money on lifted vehicles, wheels, tires and suspension upgrades to achieve the overall appearance of the vehicles.

Our target consumer in each segment will do research to look for the true value of a strong performing tire at a good price point. The Kenda Klever M/T consumer wants a tire that demonstrates great performance and allows them to tell friends and business associates that the Kenda brand is an exceptional value.Steve Bourassa, product director, Nokian Tyres North America Ltd.: With the Nokian Rockproof product line, we initially targeted commercial operators in the oil and gas, mining and forestry industries who depend upon durability for their livelihood. However, after the initial launch, we received such strong consumer and dealer support (one customer even tattooed the tread pattern on his leg) for this product that we have expanded to serve consumers who value commercial-grade products. Ultimately, the product speaks for itself as consumers seek it out and validate its performance through personal testimony.

Marcus Hancock, vice president of global technology for Omni United (S) Pte. Ltd.: The M/T offering from Radar is primarily targeted at off-road enthusiasts who want a dependable, durable and aggressive looking product without having to empty their pockets. This value offering from Radar is targeted at enthusiasts that want a reliable and durable tire with no compromise to off-road traction and handling even in the harshest off-road conditions. Being available in 46 sizes ranging in rim diameters from 15 inches to 22 inches makes this range suitable for drivers of most popular SUVs and light trucks and those who have modified their vehicles with lift kits.Nick Gutierrez, sales director for Sentury Tire Americas: We have a great nationwide network of distribution and through education of the technology and development poured into our LT segment, we target the consumer who wants more than just a price point tire. The consumer that wants features and benefits. Usually the consumer that buys our products wants the next level up tire, not the cheapest.

Jon Vance, vice president of product marketing for TBC Brands LLC: We are primarily targeting the budget conscious consumer/enthusiast seeking a high value, high quality, aesthetically appealing and affordable alternative to the higher tier products in the market.

Andrew Hoit, vice president of sales and marketing for the national brands division of Tireco Inc.: The off-road enthusiasts are obviously a target, but also the average consumer looking for an aggressive look who doesn’t want to sacrifice on road performance is also our customer. Our high value position in the marketplace makes us a compelling alternative to other options.Chris Gomez, light truck product marketing manager for Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp.: With our advertising, involvement in off-road racing, brand partnerships and events, we are targeting multiple customers and their various lifestyles and preferences in the mud terrain segment. Off-road enthusiasts trust the durability and off-road performance of the Open Country M/T for its proven use with 2017 Sanctioning Committee Off Road Events (SCORE) Baja 500 Champion Andy McMillin and past SCORE Baja 1000 Champions Robby Gordon and BJ Baldwin.

Consumers seeking an aggressive look for their daily-driven trucks are attracted to the Open Country M/T through our product advertising and brand partnerships. These platforms leverage not only the tire’s performance but also its aggressive tread pattern and sidewall design. Lastly, our event programs allow us to showcase the capabilities and looks of the Open Country M/T for those customers who are looking for the perfect balance of mud terrain performance, style and off- and on-road performance.Andrew Briggs, senior director of tire business and product planning for Yokohama Tire Corp.: We are targeting the most demanding and discerning of consumers. Those that expect a high level of performance, both on-road as well as off-road, and an aggressive look that exceeds their expectations. These consumers often modify their trucks or Jeeps with other performance-related aftermarket parts and ultimately take their vehicles through some harsh environments. We created a tire that can stand up to such abuse and will allow these consumers to use their trucks as intended.

Richard Li, marketing director for Zhongce Rubber Group Co. Ltd. (ZC Rubber): The M/T and Extreme M/T markets are focused on different customers who have different tastes and demands.MTD: Tell us about your current M/T tire.

Mathis, Atturo:  The Trail Blade M/T features distinctive tread blocks and sidewall treads that are modeled after knife blades, providing the off-road traction and menacing style which has led to market success.

Sturgis, BFGoodrich: The BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2 tire provides rugged dependability to overcome nearly any obstacle while providing better road manners than expected in an off-road tire. The three-ply construction resists cuts and bruises, and aggressive sidewall lugs and compounds are inspired by the BFGoodrich Krawler T/A KX. That means more bite and sidewall protection, along with increased strength and resistance to bruising caused by rocks and rough trails, and even wear characteristics. The tire is designated Baja Champion.King, Bridgestone: The Firestone Destination M/T2 tire is built for the most demanding off-road conditions. It features an all-new tread compound and three-ply sidewall construction that increases the tire’s durability compared to its predecessor, the Destination M/T, and provides stronger resistance to chips and tears. The tire has stone and mud rejectors to keep the tread clear of debris, and 23-degree attack angles in the tread pattern give the tire strong pulling power. Another key feature is 20% more biting edges, allowing for enhanced grip on slick, wet surfaces and in snow. It’s available in 29 sizes covering 15-inch to 22-inch rim diameters and 31-inch to 37-inch outer diameter (OD) flotation sizes.

Jamieson, Cooper: The Discoverer STT Pro is Cooper’s most advanced, extreme tire to date. The Discoverer STT Pro provides traction and performance in some of the harshest terrains on earth. The distinctive tread design and compound provide on-the-road performance without sacrificing off-road traction. The three-ply Armor Tek3 silica tread compound, aggressive 3-2 center rib design, side-biters and more allow drivers to push the tire to the limits and discover what their vehicles are truly capable of. Cooper also offers the Mastercraft Courser MXT, a two-ply design off-road M/T tire for light truck owners seeking a great looking tire at a value price point. The Cooper Discoverer MTP is an M/T option available exclusively through Discount Tire outlets.Howlett, Falken: Prototypes of the WildPeak M/T existed on the market for many years prior to launch, and the tire was tested in a variety of harsh, off-road motorsports events such as the King of the Hammers, Baja 1000, and Four Wheeler’s Ultimate Adventure. Off-road traction on mud and a rugged terrain was paramount for this product, along with durability, especially in the sidewall. It features a Duraspec three-ply construction with high-ply turn-ups around the bead, making the tire five-plies thick where protection is needed in the most vulnerable area of the sidewall. Its durability and quiet ride set it apart.

Terzaken, General: The Grabber X3 is an extreme terrain tire that delivers off-road performance in mud, dirt and rock for light trucks and SUVs. After spending more than three years developing the tire, since its release in August 2016 the company has received positive reviews within the off-road community. The three-ply construction and signature red letters are popular elements of this tire.Toth, Goodyear: The Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar is an extreme off-road expedition tire reinforced with DuPont Kevlar fiber plus Durawall technology to help resist punctures when powering over rocks, mud and sand. The use of Kevlar and Goodyear’s patented Durawall technology bring sidewall cut and puncture resistance to an area of the tire that demands extra toughness when driving off road. It also helps reinforce the sidewall for when drivers return to the pavement for the ride home. The Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar features an advanced silica compound that helps with wet traction performance both on and off the road.

Lee, Hankook: The Dynapro MT RT03 is available in 30 M/T sizes, with enhanced features such as protection blocks on the sidewall to handle rough road conditions. Not only do the blocks have an appealing appearance, but they also shield against the shock of protruding objects. This tire defends against pothole damage and improves traction in soft dirt. The grooves on the tire are designed to eject foreign objects that could get stuck within. They also enhance handling capabilities, especially important for M/T tires. The zigzag shoulder pattern delivers greater off-road traction and the grooves are shaped to keep dirt out and provide the firmest grip.Liu, Hercules: The Terra Trac M/T is a modern mud tire, designed for the way consumers really drive — usually on the road much more than off. It has a high-low tread design that allows for a lower void-to-rubber ratio in the middle of the tread, which approximates a center rib to deliver better handling, comfort and a quieter ride. The tire still needs to get the seal of approval from enthusiasts, so there’s a high void-to-rubber ratio on the outside of the tread so the off-road traction is uncompromised. As far as aesthetics, there’s an optional camouflage sidewall design that’s been popular.

Stotsenburg, Kenda: The Kenda M/T KR29 is an option for off-road enthusiasts or individuals who require a high traction tire for their personal and work environments. The scalloped shoulder blocks are staggered to ensure improved traction in loose or soft surfaces, and the specialty chip and cut resistant, off-road tread compound is engineered for long life and reasonable on-road ride and noise. The tire features full depth sipes for improved wet and snow traction, with options for three-ply sidewalls to improve durability. It’s available in 25 offerings in sizes from 15 inches to 22 inches.Bourassa, Nokian: The Nokian Rockproof was originally developed in conjunction with Nokian Heavy Tyres for light trucks and SUVs. Featuring commercial-grade innovations including a new cut-resistant hybrid tread compound and aggressive tread pattern, the Nokian Rockproof provides durability in rough off-road conditions. It also features tread block support for more precise handling, stone ejectors and Nokian’s Aramid sidewall technology which make it more resistant to impacts and cuts.

Hancock, Omni United: From the success of the Renegade R5, engineers continued their research and development and launched the Renegade R7. The R7 is designed on similar design philosophies as the R5 but additionally offers features like a reinforced three-ply casing for high durability and state-of-the-art stone ejector technology which prevents stone retention and subsequent tire damage. This range is available in 46 sizes and in rim diameters up to 22 inches and overall diameters up to 37 inches that fit on most of today’s SUVs, light trucks and vehicles with lift kits.Gutierrez, Sentury: The Delinte DX-9 and Landsail CLX-9 are the ultimate M/T tire, put through personal testing in the Mojave Desert at all speeds and intense terrains. The tire features puncture guard toughness, a super stable shoulder, and wetland optimized grooves. It’s got the best ratio of rubber and tread void to effectively expel dirt from the tire under extreme road conditions.

Vance, TBC: Our current M/T offering is the Mud Claw Extreme M/T, which has been designed to incorporate the primary features, benefits and design attributes of a higher tiered product into an affordable product package that appeals to budget minded enthusiasts. The Mud Claw M/T features 28 LT and flotation sizes in 15-inch to 20-inch rim diameters, and a pair of 22-inch fitments were added in September. The Mud Claw Extreme M/T is pinned for studs and offers a three-ply sidewall design in 18- to 20-inch sizes.Hoit, Tireco: Our newest M/T product is the Milestar Patagonia M/T. It entered the marketplace in 2016 and is the best of both worlds. It has a unique tread pattern that combines aggressive looks with smooth and surprisingly quiet performance on the street. The center of the tread pattern provides the smooth and consistent ride on the pavement while the aggressive shoulder blocks provide outstanding off road performance when aired down. All sizes come with strong three-ply sidewall construction for added durability.

Gomez, Toyo: The Open Country M/T is legendary for durability, off-road performance, long tread life and an aggressive tread pattern. It’s designed to help trucks work hard on pavement, then work just as hard when roads are muddy, snowy, and rocky — or when there are no roads at all. More than 50 sizes are available for 15- through 24-inch rims: metric widths from 235 to 385 mm; flotation sizes ranging from 10.50 to 15.50 inches and diameters up to 40 inches. It’s available up to F Load Range for late model, high capacity pickups. It is also backed by Toyo’s No Regrets 45-day, 500-mile trial offer.Briggs, Yokohama: Our current M/T tire, the Geolandar M/T G003, entered the market in July with 37 sizes for 15 inches to 20 inches. We focused on several areas during the development, including an updated relevant size lineup, a uniquely aggressive appearance in both the tread and shoulder area, as well as on- and off-road performance. Extensive development has resulted in a tire with better wet braking, longer mileage, a quieter ride on the road and off-road performance.

Li, ZC Rubber: ZC Rubber today mainly supplies two kinds of M/T tires: SL366 and SL386. Both tires are applicable for rough roads and a reinforced tire structure is applied. SL366 focuses on price-sensitive customers who mostly use the tires for daily life but sometimes try some exciting experiences. The SL386 is for customers who are seeking extreme experience.    ■

About the Author

Joy Kopcha | Managing Editor

After more than a dozen years working as a newspaper reporter in Kansas, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, Joy Kopcha joined Modern Tire Dealer as senior editor in 2014. She has covered murder trials, a prison riot and more city council, county commission, and school board meetings than she cares to remember.

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