Tires that can accommodate higher speeds are capturing a growing proportion of retail sales in the US – another sign that higher-quality products increasingly drive the tire marketplace.
Across the Passenger Car (PC), SUV (4X4) and Light Truck (LT) segments, consumers increasingly favor tires that are rated for speeds that most drivers will likely never approach – up to 168 miles per hour.
The findings come from GfK’s retail panel representing nearly 35,000 points of sale throughout the US. Overall, dealers providing data to GfK account for almost two-thirds of US replacement tire sales.
In the Passenger Car segment – which represents 55%of total unit volume in the US – buyers are shifting away from T-rated tires (intended for speeds up to 118MPH) and toward V and H models. The V category (rated for 149MPH) accounted for 20% of PC sales in 2017, compared to 19% in 2016. H units (rated for 168MPH) claimed a 32% share both years, while T tires went from 31% of the PC market in 2016 to 29% last year.
The SUV (4X4) segment – garnering 30% of total unit volume in the US – experienced a similar shift, trending away from S models (rated at 112MPH) and towards H (130MPH). Three of the four top tire manufacturers recorded growth in H-rated SKUs.
“In many ways, we see speed ratings as a proxy for quality, which increasingly drives customer preference in today’s tire market,” said Neil Portnoy, Managing Director of GfK’s POS Tire Panel. “We also believe that improvements in tire technology – allowing for smoother rides at higher speeds – are making these higher-end tires more appealing to the mainstream, family car or sedan owner.”
Among Light Truck tires, GfK recorded a consistent drop in sales for R-rated (106MPH) tires – which account for over 50% of LT volume – while those rated S (112MPH) showed growth.
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