UHP Light Truck Tires: ‘A Blending of Technologies’

Feb. 27, 2018

Consumers are replacing their high performance sedans with high performance SUVs and CUVs.

And to Sonny McDonald, national training manager for Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp., it makes sense that the light truck tires on those vehicles would take on more performance-like characteristics. “The demand in the SUV and CUV ultra-high performance tire market is evolving much like the passenger UHP market. More vehicles are equipped with larger rim diameter, lower profile and at least V-speed-rated tires.”

And the evolution, driven by both technology and marketing, is good news for tire dealers. “The UHP SUV and CUV replacement market will offer dealers the greatest growth and profit potential,” says McDonald. “Customers buying SUVs or CUVs are often looking to customize with plus-sized tire and wheel packages because it’s all about the look.”

Modern Tire Dealer asked Toyo and its fellow tire makers to weigh in on the UHP light truck tire market. Some call it a niche, while  others see a blurring of the lines between light truck fitments and UHP tire qualities. 

Michelin North America Inc., for one, does not directly associate UHP or high performance tires with speed ratings.

“We are seeing a growing market for P-metric, higher speed-rated tires that fit light trucks and SUVs. Typically Michelin defines its tires by the optimal performance capability and not solely on size and fitment. Michelin and BFGoodrich focus on performance capability to best fit the consumer driving need. That said, as the market grows we anticipate having products that would carry the higher speed rating for vehicles that would fit in the light truck category.”

There is a consensus among tire manufacturers, though: The market is growing. So, MTD asked: How big is the UHP light truck tire market? What’s the projection for this segment in the next three to five years? Ten years?

Michael Mathis, president of Atturo Tire Corp.: The UHP light truck (including SUV) is the new high performance sedan market. Think of the Tesla Model X, BMW X-series M editions, Porsche Macan and Cayenne, Mercedes AMG, Dodge Durango SRT and new Jeep Cherokee Trackhawk. All of these are available with over 400 horsepower! Consumers continue to demand higher performance from their trucks and the manufacturers indulge them. These are the vehicles the AZ850 is designed to suit. By simply replacing the boring all-season original equipment tire, the true ability of these vehicles can be realized.

Will Robbins, product manager for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC: Traditionally, the performance light truck tire segment has been defined by UHP summer products applied as OE to vehicles like the Ford Lightning or Toyota X-Runner. Over the last several years we have seen a general decline in this particular segment relative to replacement tires.

The truck segment as a whole, however, has tremendous growth opportunities, and our product line is reflecting the trends we are seeing in the light truck tire segment. While Bridgestone doesn’t offer a dedicated aftermarket UHP light truck tire at this time, our Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sport tire is offered as OE on select vehicles and available as a replacement tire for those vehicles. We also work closely with OE manufacturers to meet their needs for performance tires for light trucks and the rapidly growing CUV market.

At the same time, we also have seen growth in the traditional UHP summer product segment with performance-oriented SUVs and CUVs. The SUV/CUV segment in general has rapidly expanded beyond the initial players like the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne into a wide range of manufacturers and vehicle sizes. We expect to see continued growth in this area over the coming years.

Björn-B. Gläser, performance tire product manager for Continental Tire the Americas LLC: The segment is more than 4 million units and growing, particularly on the crossover and SUV side, including light trucks, SUVs and crossovers V-rated and higher. We see this segment increasing with the growth of performance crossovers and SUVs.

Drew Howlett, product manager for light truck and SUV tires for Falken Tire Corp.: The UHP light truck tire market in the traditional sense has diminished significantly. The days of the 1990s sport trucks such as the Ford Lightning are over, and the cosmetic inch-up light truck phase of the 2000s has either morphed into OE SUV fitments in sizes such as 285/45R22 or migrated to the Tier 3 and Tier 4 aftermarket in sizes such as 305/40R22. Automakers also are shifting focus to high performance sport-oriented trims of crossover platforms, such as the latest release of the Ford Edge ST fitted with 265/40ZR21.

Bob Toth, director of industry relations for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.: We are seeing an increasing number of high performance tires, predominantly H speed rated, being fitted on sport trim level crossovers, SUVs and pickups, and our Eagle F1 asymmetric SUV UHP tires have been fitted on premium vehicles like the Audi Q7, the Porsche Cayenne and the Range Rover.

Cy Han, general manager of the sales management team for Hankook Tire America Corp.: We estimate the performance SUV market size is approximately 6.5 million units annually. The biggest sales volume comes from comfort SUVs, which represent around 16% of the total passenger and light truck market. We anticipate steady annual growth of 1.5% to 2%.

Brian Phillips, marketing supervisor for Maxxis International-USA: The light truck segment in general is still growing as manufacturers attempt to keep pace with demand for pickup trucks and larger sport utility vehicles. It logically follows that a large percentage of those vehicles will see a change to UHP tires as their owners will continue to demand on-road performance that rivals that of their automotive daily driver counterparts. Tire manufacturers continue to blur the lines between light truck and UHP fitments by applying technology to truck tires that was once reserved for sports cars and sedans. The UHP light truck tire segment would appear to be as big as or bigger than any of the other tire segments recognized by our industry. Projecting growth in any segment in the tire industry is tricky. Assuming supply chains and raw materials required for manufacturing remain settled, this segment should see steady growth at least for the near term, and probably a leveling off in the five-to-10 year range as yet unavailable vehicle technology will affect sales in this range.

Jay Lee, director of product planning for Nexen Tire America Inc.: It’s getting bigger. Here’s the reason: the OEM tire’s rim diameter is getting bigger due to the vehicle’s performance upgrade.

Roberto Vezzoli, product marketing manager for Pirelli Tire North America Inc.: The UHP light truck segment is still a niche within the overall tire market, accounting for approximately 1% of the SUV tire market. We project growth for this segment in the future, given that most premium/prestige car makers are launching SUV vehicles. For example, Pirelli has provided six new tires for the new Lamborghini Urus.

Rick Phillips, vice president of sales for Triangle Tire USA: This is a bit of a niche market right now but appears to be growing. We will definitely address this segment once our factory in North Carolina begins production in the next couple years. It should continue to gain strength in the near future. A lot of the momentum is fueled by low fuel prices as well as the evolution of the light trucks being produced. These vehicles are not just for work anymore and they offer a lot of sporty and fun features that are appealing to a growing segment of consumers.

What are the trends and latest technology for UHP light truck tires?

Mathis, Atturo: We see more vehicle manufacturers trying run-flat tires where Atturo has been present in the market for several years. The other major trend is in using staggered fitments front and rear on these all-wheel drive vehicles. Again, Atturo is a leader in offering unique applications such as a 275/35R22 and 315/30R22 matched set.

Robbins, Bridgestone: For UHP tires in general, we are seeing the industry focus on delivering the traditional dry and wet handling performance of a UHP tire with fewer compromises in other areas like ride comfort, wear life and, for all-season UHP tires, winter capability. With our newest tread rubber compounds, we are able to minimize performance trade-offs and provide the balanced performance that customers have come to expect.

Gläser, Continental: Traditionally in the past, this segment was dominated by summer products; now all-season capabilities have become more important.

Howlett, Falken: Falken’s premium all-season sport truck and SUV product offering, the Falken Ziex S/TZ05, now in its fifth generation, will continue to advance with this constantly evolving market segment.

Toth, Goodyear: While a number of sport crossover and SUV models are being fitted with UHP tires, all of our UHP products fall under our performance tire product category. As such, whether they’re fitted on a sedan, sports car, crossover, SUV or pickup, these tires leverage our strong UHP compounding and construction technologies tool box, while also factoring in the tire size, load requirements and application.

Han, Hankook: Speed is important to performance SUV consumers. The best UHP light truck tires offer V- or Z-grade speed ratings. They have the capability to respond quickly and handle turns smoothly at a high rate of speed. Hankook’s two UHP light truck offerings provide an excellent balance of smooth handling and enjoyable performance in all road conditions.

Phillips, Maxxis: The trend most apparent in the light truck UHP segment is the move to larger diameter fitments. Larger diameter tires have become much more prevalent in both the OE landscape and the aftermarket replacement segment. One way to enable a large heavy vehicle to perform in the manner in which their owners require is to put more rubber under these ever larger trucks and SUVs. Extra load P-metric fitments continue to dominate the light truck UHP segment and some, including myself, are curious to know when the E-load UHP tire may become the next must have for consumers.

Lee, Nexen: Increasing the light snow traction without any other performance loss, and the tendency to cover three-plus seasons while enhancing traction in light snow conditions.

Vezzoli, Pirelli: UHP light truck tires use similar technology to car tires in many cases, including new materials and internal structures, to offer the same performance in on-road applications. These new technologies allow us to offer drivers both improved wet and dry braking and handling, and provide better traction in light snow. In addition, we can provide this UHP quality in dry/wet conditions, while maintaining a tread wear warranty for the customer.

Phillips, Triangle: You’re seeing a blending of technologies between UHP tires and light truck tires. If you look at the two segments they are almost at opposite ends of the spectrum. The challenge is to achieve certain performance characteristics that satisfy both light truck needs and UHP needs without sacrificing the core performance characteristics of either.

McDonald, Toyo: The key in developing UHP light truck tires like our new Proxes ST III is making sure we get the right mix of dry and wet handling performance, wear and still maintaining that sporty cosmetic appearance.

Share some tips to help dealers make the UHP light truck tire sale. What characteristics or benefits does a UHP light truck tire offer that dealers should be sure to highlight when trying to close the sale?

Mathis, Atturo: The UHP sale for a light truck is truly about explaining the enhanced handling, braking and overall responsiveness of a UHP tire which is properly suited for the vehicle (which means correct load index, matched to a wheel within spec and of a proper speed rating). Often, the comparison to an original all-season touring tire is an easy one and a difference the owner can feel immediately. Even in the case of a third or fourth replacement set of tires, the more modern performance of a tire like the AZ850 will give the driver an increased sense of the vehicle’s ability.

Robbins, Bridgestone: UHP tires are best suited for drivers who most value responsive handling and dry and wet grip. These customers will prioritize performance over touring tire attributes such as ride comfort and long wear life.

Gläser, Continental: The sovereign balance for UHP SUVs and crossovers is key. Provide the customer with products giving a great driving experience, while ensuring safety and grip in all seasons and weather conditions. For the ExtremeContact DWS06 this is additionally coupled with the Total Confidence Plan. This includes a mileage and road hazard warranty, leaving no box unchecked for a UHP customer.

Toth, Goodyear: UHP tires are for those drivers looking for outstanding wet and dry traction, lots of cornering power, and precise, responsive handling, even at the expense of some ride, tread life, and winter weather performance.

Han, Hankook: Speed is important to performance SUV consumers. The best UHP light truck tires offer V- or Z-grade ratings. They have the capability to respond quickly and handle turns smoothly at a high rate of speed.

Phillips, Maxxis: The UHP light truck customer, like any other tire buyer, must be correctly and thoroughly qualified in order to assess their needs. The old standby qualifying questions apply: “What did you like or dislike about your old tires? What aspects of your next tires would you like to see improvement in? Does this truck or SUV see off-road use?” These questions and others can be used to determine if you in fact have a candidate for a UHP sale.

Lee, Nexen: A UHP tire’s main characteristic is grip. It means safety. It will give the maximum traction so the consumer can feel safe when they pick UHP tires instead of other segment tires.

Vezzoli, Pirelli: Ultimately, UHP light truck tires combine high performance with all-season utility, including the ability to drive in light snow.

Phillips, Triangle: I think the most important thing the dealer can do is to be very diligent with the consumer as they are shopping and thoroughly understand how their particular vehicle will be utilized. How many of the total miles driven will be UHP miles? How many will light truck miles? Based on what they learn they can look at their offerings and make a logical recommendation.

McDonald, Toyo: With all tires sales, the key is asking qualifying questions, such as “What is the worst driving condition you might face? How is your vehicle used?” Once you have established their needs, then you can start pointing out features of a particular tire that will offer the customer the most benefits to meet their needs.

Let’s see your company’s UHP light truck tire product.

Mathis, Atturo: The Atturo AZ850 was designed from the ground up specifically for the modern high performance light truck and SUV.  The sidewall profile is engineered to maintain strength and responsiveness for a higher center of gravity vehicle.  Also available as a run flat, the AZ850 covers sizes of 18-inch through 22-inch rims including staggered sizes.

Robbins, Bridgestone: The Firestone Destination M/T2 tire is designed for and tested in deep mud, rock and sand, and it delivers trusted traction with dependability and durability. Stone and mud rejectors help keep the tread clear of debris, and 23-degree attack angles give the tire strong pulling power. With an all-new tread compound, three-ply sidewall construction and aggressive upper sidewall design, the Destination M/T2 tire has better traction in mud and offers strong resistance to chips and tears.

The Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sport tire is engineered to exceed the performance standards of today’s consumer. It is available as original equipment on select SUVs, CUVs and light trucks. Specially designed for high-performing SUVs, pickup trucks and crossover vehicles, the tire combines traction and toughness with superior driving performance, comfort and reliability.

Gläser, Continental: The ExtremeContact DWS06 is the tire for drivers seeking true, year-round traction. The tire is built for luxury sport crossovers, and it features award-winning SportPlus Technology which provides precise handling; security on wet, slippery roads; and excellent tread life. Additionally, Continental’s Tuned Performance Indicators, provide an extra measure of confidence. The Dry, Wet and Snow letters in the tread indicate the tire’s optimal performance in levels. The ExtremeContact DWS06 is backed by the Total Confidence Plan. The tire comes in 87 sizes for wheel diameters of 16 inches to 22 inches with a W or Y speed rating.

The Grabber UHP tire is an all-season light truck, crossover and SUV tire designed for excellent handling and traction in wet and dry conditions. Center to shoulder grooves help aid in efficient water evacuation and improve road contact and control in wet conditions. The advanced sound-reduction technology and continuously varying groove angles work together to reduce noise and deliver an impressively quiet ride. The Grabber UHP comes in 16 sizes from 16-inch to 24-inch wheel diameters with a H, V and W speed rating.

Toth, Goodyear: Our Eagle F1 Asymmetric SUV Ultra High Performance family of products has been fitted as original equipment on vehicles like the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, and Range Rover. All sizes are V, W, or Y speed rated, and the Eagle F1 Asymmetric AT SUV product offers all season traction.

Goodyear also offers a variety of H and V speed rated sizes in our Eagle RS-A and Eagle LS-2 lines which have been fitted as original equipment on vehicles like the VW Touareg, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, and BMW X5. These products both offer all season traction, as well as responsive handling and a smooth, quiet ride.

Han, Hankook: The Ventus ST is a sporty all-season SUV tire with high-speed driving performance and stylish design. It is a high-performance tire designed for SUVs and sport trucks that provides dry and wet performance, sturdy handling and improved mileage.

The Ventus S1 Evo2 SUV is a premium performance tire for SUVs that shortens braking distances in dry and wet conditions, enhances fuel efficiency based on lowest rolling resistance and provides excellent grip and safety when cornering.

Phillips, Maxxis: Our variety of alternatives for customers serving the market range from the Bravo Series, Escapade, Bighorn, Marauder and the Trepador Radial. The Latest addition to the UHP light truck tire segment is the Razr MT.

The Razr MT was engineered with know-how gained from our involvement in off-road racing . The tire features a new off-road compound with new chemical fillers for maximum tear and chip resistance as well as tread life. The new pattern features deeply sculpted center blocks which maximize mud traction, while stone and mud ejectors improve self-cleaning performance and minimize rock retention. The tire features a sidewall design that maximizes sidewall traction and puncture resistance; deeply sculpted center blocks to maximize off-road traction while retaining a quieter ride; a new tread compound featuring new chemical fillers for maximum tear resistance and tread life; and a dual-cord casing ply features intertwined reinforcement fibers, dramatically improving casing strength for superior durability and toughness. The tire carries a 40,000-mile limited tread wear warranty

Lee, Nexen: The N’Fera RU5 offers traction, handling and strength for all seasons. The tread design incorporates waves, grooves and a micro-grooves to deter hydroplaning as well as improve grip  in either rain or snow. A second outside rib spanning asymmetrically to the inside creates stiffness for greater stability and cornering ability.

Vezzoli, Pirelli: The Scorpion Zero All Season Plus features the latest generation, high performance all-season tire tread compound for this tire segment. High quality materials are combined using an innovative process to give the tread compound an optimized balance of wet and dry grip, steering response, tread wear, and traction in light snow.

The large blocks on the outboard tire shoulder improve handling and braking performance both on dry and wet surfaces. The rigid central blocks increase dry grip and steering response. Winter siping technology is used on the inboard blocks to give improved snow traction. Four large circumferential grooves provide efficient removal of water to minimize hydroplaning. 

McDonald, Toyo: The Toyo Proxes ST III is designed to offer both looks and performance for sport trucks and SUVs. The tire features an arrowhead tread design, and with a wider tread and a new silica-based tread compound, Toyo says the tire stops up to 6 feet shorter than the Proxes ST II. The new tire also delivers handling, all-season performance, consistent wear and a smooth, quiet ride. The tire is backed by a 40,000-mile warranty. The tire is available in sizes to fit 17- to 24-inch wheels, and widths up to 335mm.    ■

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.