The all-weather category is growing at a rapid clip. How fast? Just look at the numbers. “All-weather tire sales in the United States have nearly doubled over the past couple of years,” says Tsuyoshi Johnson, product manager, PCR tires, for Sumitomo Rubber North America Inc. (SRNA), which makes and markets the Falken brand.
“January 2020 saw 1.2 million units sold compared to January 2022’s 2.1 million units. We feel that’s a drastic increase and certainly makes the all-weather category worth paying attention to.”
In this article, tire manufacturers and marketers weigh in on why the all-weather category will continue to expand, with an important caveat - dedicated winter tires and all-season tires aren’t going away anytime soon. (Responses are listed in alphabetical order, according to name of company.)
Brandon Stotsenburg, vice president, automotive division, American Kenda Rubber Co. Ltd.: The North American consumer who travels in areas that may need improved or occasional winter performance is the prime target for the all-weather product. In most parts of the northern U.S., people expect to encounter winter conditions, but may not expect to encounter severe winter conditions requiring a dedicated winter tire. The all-weather or four-season segment has evolved for a number of reasons. First, the consumer has become more aware of the 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol and its representation for improved winter tire performance. It should be noted that the testing criteria to designate 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake is meant to be third party-verified, but it remains the manufacturer’s responsibility to confirm when it applies the designation. Second, the compromises previously assumed for enhanced winter performance - such as reduction in wear - have been reduced with technology improvements for both mechanical design and compounding.
J. Downey, senior manager, product and pricing, Apollo Tyres Ltd.: The all-weather category has seen substantial growth over the last few years, with the industry forecast now around double-digit growth. That growth can be attributed to consumer purchasing behavior toward a product that meets and/ or exceeds the performance needs and is flexible in any geography. In the tire industry - similar to other manufacturing sectors - consumer demand will be dynamically driven by product innovation. The all-weather category will continue to gain consumer and dealer appeal with the combination of multiple factors, including product performance enhancements through technology.
Ian McKenney, senior product manager, Bridgestone Americas Inc.: All-weather tires have been in the market for over a decade, but they seem to have gained some serious traction with consumers in the last three to five years. Initially, these early offerings lived in a performance space between a dedicated winter tire and an all-season product. As time has gone on and technology has improved, all-weather tires represent some of the absolute best all-season touring tires, while also delivering 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake-rated performance. . While the acceptance of all-weather tires has grown in the market - often times replacing the need for winter tires - regional factors must be acknowledged. Growth has been more pronounced in the U.S., where in many areas, winters are more mild than those experienced in Canada.
Travis Roffler, director of marketing, Continental Tire the Americas LLC: As a fairly new segment to the market, the all-weather segment makes sense as a subsegment of the all-season market as they are a solid alternative in some northern states to switching between summer and winter tires. This has led to positive growth for this segment. In certain geographies, it makes perfect sense to switch away from the cumbersome task of changing from summer to winter tires and then back again. Also the required 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake marking (means the tire) provides solid performance year-round in certain areas, where 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake markings are required during the winter months. But make no mistake - all-weather tires are not winter tires. If you need a winter tire, you still need a winter tire. All-weather tires are a compromise between all-season and winter tires.
David Poling, director of tire development and product marketing, Giti Tire (USA) Ltd.: The all-weather category originally grew out of an unmet need in Canada that for years there was no answer for until technology advancements caught up. In certain areas of Canada, there is a legal requirement to changeover to winter tires with a mountain snowflake rating during defined winter seasons, thus requiring the consumer to change over their summer or all-season tires to winter. This required the storage of tires and the time to do the changeover. The novelty of the all-weather tire is the elimination of the changeover requirement with a tire that approaches the winter performance of a dedicated winter tire and has a tread life that approaches that of an all-season tire. In the U.S., where there are no changeover requirements, the real selling point is that of an enhanced all-season tire that specifically meets the needs of consumers in states that have moderate to heavy snowfall.
Rob Williams, senior vice president, North America sales, Hankook Tire North America Corp.: There has been consistent growth in this category, led by consumer demand for extremely versatile tires that offer maximum value to drivers year-round. The initial result of this demand was the creation of the all-weather segment. Since its introduction, the popularity of all-weather tires has been bolstered by ongoing improvements and technological developments that have widened the segment’s offerings to include ultra-high performance tires, for example. In general, all-weather tires provide a practical and economical approach to year-round driving. For consumers who anticipate the occasional, more-than-challenging winter driving scenario, such as a seasonal snowstorm or freezing rain event, the capabilities provided by all-weather tires make them a more appealing choice. And for this reason, we will continue to see an increase in this (category) as consumers seek seasonal flexibility split along all-weather and all-season product lines, based on the severity of their local driving conditions.
Robert Waytashek, product planning specialist, product strategy division, Maxxis International - USA: Over the last several years, it seems that more and more tire manufacturers are releasing or are planning to release their own all-weather offerings. Customers are driving this trend because so many are looking for a true four-season tire solution, especially in the northern states, Canada and places with colder climates that may or may not mandate tires with 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake certification. Switching between and storing winter and all-season tires is a pain, as is worrying about not having the traction needed for winter weather. Switching tires with the seasons also can be expensive. Drivers are looking for solutions to ease their worry and their wallets when it comes to multi-seasonal performance needs. In many cases, all-weather tires are the best solution.
Russell Shepherd, technical communications director, Michelin North America Inc.: All-weather tires are a subcategory of all-season tires, improving winter traction to the level of a winter tire. However, all-weather tires do not offer the performance in ice and slush traction of a true winter tire. Because of that, many find all-weather tires as an offering that closely meets their expectations of an all-season tire - good snow traction for moderate winter conditions. The growth of all-weather tires is primarily replacing other all-season offerings.
Jason Yard, director of marketing, Nexen Tire America Inc.: There are at least three factors at play contributing to the growth of the all-weather category - the global impact from the pandemic on vehicle supply in general, and (the fact that) people are keeping their cars longer, so when they replace their tires, they opt for all-weather options instead of what comes standard; the technology in this category continues to improve with regard to traction and durability, so there are more choices to select from; and the growth of the SUV/CUV and light truck categories warrant the need for more capable all-weather tires. I think the all-weather category will continue to grow due to the CUV/SUV light truck market growth. This category of tire has advantages over the all-season category and in general, (is) fitted more for the LT market.
Steve Bourassa, director of products, Nokian Tyres plc.: Ever since we produced the first all-weather tire in 2002, we have worked hard to help drivers understand the differences between all-weather and all-season. In recent years, we have seen the all-weather category grow as a result of manufacturer emphasis and consumer education. Both segments have a major role to play in our product mix and that has been the case ever since our first all-weather tire. Other manufacturers have begun introducing winter properties into their year-round offerings, too. We’ve seen many dealers become enthusiastic about teaching their customers about the segment and some even consider all-weather tires to be the cornerstone of their product portfolios.
Erdem Halulu, North America chief commercial officer, Pirelli Tire North America Inc.: Over the course of the last three years, there has been a significant growth of this segment. Compared to 2019, there has been a 91% growth of this market and, today, the all-weather segment makes up 12.6% of the total U.S. (passenger tire) market. Consumer convenience is one of the main drivers of this growth. Changing tires from summer to winter and vice versa clearly isn’t ideal for the majority of consumers. Also advancements in technology have made it possible to have tires that balance the all-season offering with strong winter capabilities. We do expect this growth to continue, especially in the northern part of the country, (as) consumers start to pay more attention to the difference between all-weather and all-season tires.
Jared Lynch, director of sales, national accounts, Sailun Tire Americas: The advancements in modern-day tread compounds have allowed tire manufacturers to create all-weather tires that truly do well on ice, snow, wet and dry road conditions. Previous tread compounds did not allow a manufacturer to create a tire that could “do it all”, which meant that an all-weather tire was generally strong in one specific area and weak in other areas. As tread compounds evolve, so does the effectiveness of an all-weather tire. An effective all-weather tire is extremely attractive to consumers who otherwise change tires seasonally in order to experience premium traction in specific conditions (winter, summer, etc.) This will save these consumers time and money without sacrificing much in terms of traction, handling, comfort and longevity through the seasonal changes.
Johnson, SRNA: Regarding factors driving (all-weather tire) growth, we believe it boils down to two main points - convenience and attentiveness to extreme weather. In the eyes of a consumer, the ideal situation would entail thinking about their tires as little as possible. That includes not having to swap them when winter weather rolls around. Not only does this potentially help them save money by not having to purchase a second set of wheels and tires, it’s simply more convenient. And convenience is the name of the game, especially after everyone’s become accustomed to doing basically anything they want from the comfort of their homes the past couple of years. In addition to more convenience, consumers also expect better products year after year. One area in which drivers are demanding improved tire performance is winter traction. Consumers are only able to forego the swapping of winter tires if they have all-weather tires that truly perform in all weather conditions. Fortunately, the industry has continued to deliver products that meet and exceed customer expectations — led in large part by manufacturers’ focus on building tires that earn the industry’s 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake rating.
Patricia Del Aguila, vice president of merchandising and product marketing, TBC Corp.: The e all-weather category has grown two-fold over the past couple of years. This growth can be attributed to the number of products introduced into the category, coupled with more consumers understanding the benefits of all-weather products. Some versions of winter tires are already being replaced by all-weather products as they provide a versatile, single-tire solution - regardless of the season - for customers who live in areas with only occasional snowfall or temperature dips, instead of needing to switch tires throughout the year. All-weather tires will likely continue to be a supplement to existing and future all-season offerings as all-season tires are not recommended for severe snow conditions.
Andrew Hoit, vice president of sales and marketing, brands division, Tireco: All-weather demand comes from customers wanting convenience as it is more cost-effective and time-effective to run an all-weather tire year-round. What we are hearing from our customers is that the all-weather tire provides their customers with better ride quality. The value proposition of an all-weather tire is what’s helping customers switch over to this category from traditional all-season and winter tires. All-weather tires will be a supplement to existing all-season offerings mainly because of the warmer climate in most states. The largest U.S. vehicle population is all in the lower half of the country, where it’s warmer and there’s not a need for an all-weather tire. But some pockets of the country where there is heavy snow may experience a greater demand for all-weather products.
Cameron Parsons, product engineer and field analyst, competition and specialty tires, Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp.: We’ve seen massive growth in this category. All-weather tires have improved since the early stages of the category and we expect to see further growth in the future. Given that it’s an evolving category of tire and that it can potentially replace two (other categories) - all-season and winter tires - in regions with mild winters, consumers are still learning about its advantages, while many still have yet to learn that this category is even available. Part of the selling point is convenience and safety. The ability to drive with confidence in dry, wet and snow enables customers to leave home where the weather might be nice and sunny and spend their weekends in the mountains, where it’s snowing. Surprise harsh winter storms have made headlines in recent years, disabling many from being able to leave their homes as they didn’t have capable tires mounted on their vehicles. As this knowledge continues to spread, we expect significant adoption rates to continue.