Light trucks, sport-utility vehicles (SUV) and crossover utility vehicles (CUV) are on the move in more ways than one. As they shift from traditional body-on-frame construction to passenger car chassis derivatives, there is increasing demand for them — and tires that offer ride quality, durability and fuel economy.
“The SUV/CUV market will continue to grow at a faster pace than any other tire segment,” says Jonathan Thomas, product segment manager for Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. “The breadth of sizes continues to grow in this segment, especially those sizes specifically fitted to the new CUVs. Consumers continue to seek out tires that provide a very good balance of performance and mileage, while keeping an eye on the fuel efficiency of the tire and the aesthetic appeal of the tire itself.”
The segment also is in a state of transition due to the shift from SUVs to CUVs, according to Rod Hutchinson, product manager for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. “Crossovers require a tire with more tuning for comfort and a quiet ride.”
“Rising fuel prices are driving a change in vehicle purchase preferences,” says Travis Roffler, director of marketing for Continental Tire the Americas LLC. “There is constant pressure on vehicle manufacturers to improve fuel economy and reduce weight while improving ride quality. This also applies to those who require more utility than a passenger car. The emergence of the crossover utility segment is evidence of this trend.”
Roffler says the challenge facing tire makers is to offer LT/SUV/CUV tires that are capable of carrying the loads demanded by crossovers and SUVs, while maintaining comfort and a quiet ride.
“The owners of CUVs and SUVs are looking for good control in wet and dry conditions, along with a quiet and comfortable ride,” says David Shelton, director of marketing for GITI Tire (USA) Ltd. “A competitive tread wear warranty, not surprisingly, is also a big selling point.”
As automakers deliver the performance consumers demand, tire makers contribute to enhancing the overall ride experience.
“More and more SUVs are being put onto a car-type platform, which is not only a positive move from a fuel efficiency standpoint, but also creates utility vehicles with a much better ride,” says Suzanne Mitchell, manager of brand development at Hercules Tire & Rubber Co. “So we expect to see a lot of growth in this market — especially CUVs — in the near-term future.”
While near-term growth is expected, there is optimism for strong long-term growth as well.
“The market for CUV/SUV replacement tires, or the recreational on-road touring segment, has seen growth around 7% each year since 2007, even during 2008 and 2009 when the replacement tire market declined,” says Doug Girvin, director of product marketing for Michelin North America Inc. “Similar growth rates are expected through 2015 as the popularity of CUVs remains strong. “
As the market grows and shifts, tire manufacturers are shifting with it.
David Koh, marketing manager for Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc., says smooth ride characteristics, low noise levels and better fuel economy draw consumers to choose CUVs over SUVs in the auto market. “Tires specifically targeted at CUV owners are steadily increasing.”
But while tire makers target the market, government fuel economy regulations are targeting auto and tire makers. As a result, a focus on green tires is part of the evolution.
“The green tire movement will continue to develop at both the OEM and consumer levels,” says Rafael Navarro III, vice president of communications and media relations at Pirelli Tire North America Inc.
“OEMs are looking to reduce fuel consumption through lower rolling resistance to meet the increasingly strict government fuel economy regulations and consumers are becoming more conscious of fuel consumption as fuel prices continue to rise.”
According to Jon Vance, director of product marketing for the TBC Wholesale Group, vehicle manufacturers have been lightening vehicle weight to achieve higher fuel economy requirements. As a result, suspension systems are becoming more sensitive and driving the need for even greater ride quality performance from tires.
“This market will continue to evolve as consumers seek even greater ride comfort and car-like performance from their utility vehicles,” he says.
An apples-to-apples tire comparison
Ever-changing consumer demands are forcing LT, SUV and CUV tire makers to work faster to keep up. Here’s a look at some of the newest products in this segment.
Dueler H/L 422 Ecopia
Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations’ Dueler H/L 422 Ecopia is the first Ecopia tire designed specifically for CUVs and SUVs. The Dueler H/L 422 Ecopia offers low rolling resistance without sacrificing performance on wet surfaces.
The line features a silica-based fuel-saving tread compound for improved rolling resistance. This contributes to reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions while delivering strong wet traction.
By the end of this year, the Dueler H/L 422 Ecopia will be available in 19 sizes.
BRIDGESTONE AMERICAS TIRE OPERATIONS
Continental CrossContact LX20
The CrossContact LX20 is Continental Tire the Americas LLC’s newest all-season premium tire, designed for late-model crossovers, SUVs and light trucks. The company says it delivers a “no-compromise” balance of good fuel economy, wet braking and tread wear through the use of EcoPlus Technology. A quiet ride is provided by Smooth Response Technology. Traction grooves deliver enhanced snow grip. A range of metric, LT-metric and flotation sizes are available in rim diameters through 20 inches.
General Grabber HTS
General Tire’s Grabber HTS is a premium all-season crossover, SUV and light truck tire. The Grabber HTS features improved fuel economy from EcoRide compounds. Durability and longer mileage comes from Duragen construction.
A quieter, more comfortable ride is provided by Comfort Balance technology. A broad range of metric, LT-metric and flotation sizes are available in rim diameters through 20 inches.
Cooper Discoverer A/T3
The Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. Discoverer A/T3 was launched in April, 2011, as an all-terrain SUV and light truck tire. It fits a wide range of SUV and light truck vehicles and features a silica-based tread compound that provides strong wet traction and handling on the highway, while also improving cut and chip resistance.
Cooper says the progressive five-rib, all-terrain design provides outstanding performance in both on-road and off-road driving applications. It also provides good all-season traction and stability, strong handling and reliable tread wear. It is backed by a 55,000-mile tread wear warranty.
GT Radial Savero HT2
The GT Radial Savero HT2 from GITI Tire (USA) Ltd. is a premium, all-season highway light truck and SUV tire. It is backed with a 40,000-mile limited tread wear warranty.
Available in 33 P-metric and LT sizes (for 15- to 20-inch rims), the GT Radial Savero HT2 fits a broad range of today’s most popular crossover vehicles, SUVs, pickups and vans.
GITI says the tread pattern of the GT Radial Savero HT2 provides excellent handling and ride comfort. It features advanced noise cancelling technology which effectively reduces road noise. Additionally, the new tread compound in the GT Radial Savero HT2 delivers good grip and stability. A strong balance between dry and wet handling is achieved through the company’s carcass tension technology.
Goodyear AssuranceCS Fuel Max
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s newest entry in the LT/SUV/CUV segment is the Goodyear AssuranceCS Fuel Max, a fuel-efficient SUV tire that provides confident all-season traction. A fuel-saving tread compound helps reduce energy as the tire rolls to save up to 2,600 miles of gas over the life of a set of tires.
The tire is available in 21 sizes, ranging from 16-inch to 19-inch rim diameters. It carries a 65,000-mile tread life limited warranty.
Hankook Dynapro HT
“We see this market as growing,” says Henry Kopacz, Hankook Tire America Corp.’s public relations and product marketing specialist. “As a replacement tire, the Dynapro HT targets consumers that need a light truck replacement tire that provides the on-road comfort and all-season performance they are looking for.”
Launched earlier this year, the Dynapro HT was designed for on-road use and to provide a smooth, quiet ride in all-season conditions.
It is available in both P-metric and LT-metric sizes. The P-metric sizes range from 15-inch to 20-inch.
The Dynapro HT is marketed as a premium highway all-season performance tire for light trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles. Its main attributes are that it is designed to provide long tread wear, good snow traction and low-rolling resistance.
The RoadtourXUV from Hercules Tire & Rubber Co. offers all-weather performance with long wear and reliable handling. The computer-optimized tread reduces noise and vibrations. Specially formulated low-rolling resistance tread compounding provides improved fuel efficiency.
The Hercules RoadtourXUV H-rated fitments carry a 50K limited mileage warranty, and the T-rated fitments carry a 60K limited mileage warranty. All have road hazard protection and are part of Hercules’ 30-day Trust Our Ride test drive. It is available in 13 sizes ranging from 16-inch to 18-inch.
Kumho eco Solus KL21
Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc.’s newest product for the rapidly growing CUV market is the eco Solus KL21. Launched in summer 2010 and developed for all-season highway use, eco Solus KL21 features Kumho’s advanced low-rolling resistance technology to deliver better fuel economy and lower operating cost per mile.
Eco Solus KL21’s environmentally friendly design reduces rubber dust particle emissions versus regular CUV offerings. The design also improves performance attributes like ride comfort, steering stability and wet and dry traction.
All-season capability, driving comfort, improved tread wear resistance and low noise levels make it ideal for today’s CUV owners, notes Kumho. It is backed by Kumho’s 60,000 mile tread wear warranty. It is available in 23 sizes .
Michelin Latitude Tour
Michelin North America Inc. says the Latitude Tour provides the strength and confidence of a truck tire and the ride and comfort of a passenger car tire. Michelin construction helps deliver improved tread life without sacrificing performance. An advanced tread pattern enables more strength during braking and turning, while leaving open channels for water to pass through, and a silica-based compound helps deliver shorter braking distances on wet roads.
The Michelin Latitude Tour is offered in 75 sizes for wheels from 15 to 22 inches.
Nexen Roadian HT
The Roadian HT highway-terrain tire from Nexen Tire Americas is designed for light truck drivers who desire off-road looks with low-rolling resistant lightweight construction. These drivers also demand low noise levels and year-round traction, even in light snow. The Roadian HT is developed to meet the OE performance and comfort requirements of vehicle manufacturers.
Roadian HT tires feature computer-designed tread patterns tuned to meet the needs of each original equipment vehicle.
The Nitto Crosstek
The Crosstek is Nitto Tire U.S.A. Inc.’s latest family line of SUV, CUV and truck radials. The product comes in three tread patterns catered towards the vehicle segments mentioned.
The Crosstek is developed using Nitto’s state-of-the-art computer simulation and manufacturing processes. Nitto says the results of this unique process are products with excellent uniformity, providing the smoother ride that contemporary SUV and CUV customers demand.
Pirelli Scorpion Verde
The Scorpion Verde all season from Pirelli Tire North America is a Green Performance tire developed specifically for crossovers and SUVs. It takes full advantage of Pirelli’s latest materials, structures and tread patterns. This guarantees savings by way of reduced fuel consumption and higher mileage, respect for the environment with reduced CO2 emissions, comfort and safety on all road surfaces. Sizes range from 16- to 20-inch.
Mirada Crosstour SLX
TBC Wholesale Group says the Mirada Crosstour SLX provides the superior ride comfort and crisp handling of a premium touring tire with the durability and traction performance of a traditional SUV/truck tire. It utilizes an advanced silica tread compound that provides good wet traction and long tread wear.
The tire’s modern six-rib pattern has interlocking center ribs that enhance handling capabilities and promote even wear.
The Mirada Crosstour SLX is available in 23 sizes ranging from 235/75R15 to 235/55R18. It comes with a 70,000 mile limited tread wear warranty.
Toyo Versado CUV
The Versado CUV from Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp. is an all-season luxury performance tire for crossover vehicles. It delivers a smooth, quiet ride with enhanced handling and stability to meet the unique demands of a crossover. With a new, low rolling resistance compound, the Versado CUV is Toyo Tires’ most fuel-efficient product yet.
Features include Silent Wall technology, a non-directional, asymmetric tread and multi-wave sipes for a smooth, quiet ride. The Versado is available in 17- through 20-inch rim diameters.
Yokohama Parada Spec-X
Yokohama Tire Corp. says the Parada Spec-X is designed as an inch-up fitment for today’s heavier vehicles. It is also an OE replacement for CUVs and SUVs. Drivers of LT/SUV/CUV vehicles can have the aggressive look without sacrificing the performance capabilities they expect.
The Parada Spec-X is available in 40 fitments in 17- to 32-inch sizes.