It used to be that flashy sports cars ruled the ultra-high performance (UHP) tire market.
Those cars certainly still hold a firm grip in the world of UHP tires, but the market has also expanded just as the car parc has changed.
Over the years, original equipment vehicle manufacturers have developed and tuned CUVs and SUVs with more performance-focused features and tire- makers have followed suit with more complex tires.
The result is a healthy UHP tire market.
Plenty of tiremakers we spoke with reported significant increases — double-digit increases, in some cases — in their UHP tire sales last year.
It’s as important as ever for tire dealers to tune into the UHP tire market. We asked the tire manufacturers in the space to weigh in on the latest trends, but also to give you advice on what you need to pay attention to for the future.
Is the UHP tire market still growing? How is the popularity of CUVs, SUVs and pickup trucks affecting the UHP tire market?
Abhishek Bisht, assistant vice president, Americas, Apollo Vredestein Tires: With the rise in demand for CUV and SUV cars, we’re seeing continued growth in demand for tires that fit these vehicles, as well. Vredestein has stayed vigilant in shifting with the market to ensure we’re able to provide our dealer partners with the UHP products consumers are looking for.
The Vredestein Hypertrac All-Season UHP tire was specifically designed for the North American market.
Daniel Kelly, product manager for the U.S. and Canada, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC: We anticipate the UHP tire market to remain relatively flat in 2021. Despite the shrinking popularity of sedans, and by extension sports sedans, we are seeing an uptick in sporty CUVs and SUVs in the category, replacing some of the reduced UHP demand. So, while we do expect the UHP market to hold largely steady in terms of volume, we also see tire size lineups beginning to incorporate more CUV and SUV sizes.
Björn Gläser, product manager for performance tires, Continental Tire the Americas LLC: The UHP summer market has been steady for quite a few years now. We do not expect this to change significantly over the next couple of years. The UHP all-season market keeps growing slightly and we would expect this trend to continue the next two-to-four years, below 5% growth.
Joseph Kao, operations manager. Federal Tire North America LLC: The UHP market is taking part of the touring segment and the spirit of chasing after the speed is still there. CUV and SUV is a fast growing segment, especially CUVs. Segmentations will be more clear and each application will also be precisely defined. The sport package is still a good sales pitch, no matter how the segments break down.
The 595RS-Pro from Federal is a certified street tire with stability and steering accuracy.
David Shelton, director of industry relations, Giti Tire (USA) Ltd.: If we answer on speed rating, the answer is yes, the market is growing. If it’s defined by category or the vehicle application, there are some that have risen and fallen. There are some that are still on the rise.
If Z speed-rated tires were just under 1% of the replacement market, then V would be closer to 16%. If we define the whole thing — V, W, Y and (Y) — you’re looking at over 25% of the market.
Bob Toth, director of industry relations, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.: From 2016 to 2019, the ultra-performance segment grew 2%, in total. From 2020 to 2025, it’s forecasted to grow at nearly 1.2 times the industry growth rate.
As the CUV/SUV market continues to grow with new models, variants of existing models, more options and more trim levels, we are finding that the mix of vehicle personalities (luxury, performance, ultra-performance, utility, etc.) remains similar to the automobile segment. In fact, we already see many top level CUV and SUV trim levels being fitted with high-end, ultra-high performance tires.
Brandon Stotsenburg, vice president of automotive, American Kenda Rubber Co. Ltd.: The UHP market continues to grow within the two primary segments where we provide products: summer UHP and all-season UHP. Our year-over-year growth is above 32%, with significant recognition attributed to our proposition,focusing on premium performance at a value price.
The CUV, SUV and light truck seg- ments continue to grow as an overall percentage of new vehicle sales. Kenda has intentionally targeted the majority of these fitments with product options, offering V-rated tires There are select, smaller volume OE vehicle fitments, which are now offered with W-rated, UHP A/S tires.
Additionally, there is a growing seg- ment of consumers who want to upgrade their wheel packages and add a UHP tire for these vehicles, primarily for aesthetics. Kenda is evaluating these trends with the intention to provide products which will meet the application and vehicle use.
Chris Han, marketing manager, Kumho Tire USA Inc.: We are still seeing growth in the UHP market. The percentage year- over-year increase is very slight, but it is still significant when you take into con- sideration that the overall passenger tire market is down roughly 14% and light truck is down about 4.3%. Growth in the segment is also being fueled by increasing UHP offerings for light trucks, SUVs and especially CUVs, due to OEMs shifting over to more performance-oriented vehicles.
Most of Kumho’s UHP tire lineup is dedicated to sedans, but the company plans to shift and expand size offerings for CUVs and SUVs, like it did with the Crugen HP71.
Lisa Rouby, UHP marketing manager, Michelin North America Inc.: Michelin’s UHP tire sales — defined by tires with a Z speed rating — have been growing, especially in the second half of 2020. We think there will be steady UHP growth in 2021 with the continuing expansion of SUVs and CUVs.
Jay Lee, product planning director, Nexen Tire America Inc.: The UHP segment is still seeing growth, even with trends continuing to move towards CUVs and SUVs. While the performance vehicle market might be reducing in terms of vehicle launches, we continue to see the volume differences offset by an increase in performance CUVs and SUVs. Some CUV platforms now demand V- or W- rated products, showcasing the trend toward UHP.
With an increase in OE speed rating demands, as well, all-season UHPs are driving growth in this market. We are seeing UHP tire sales showing significant growth year over year.
Steve Bourassa, North America director of products, Nokian Tyres Inc.: At Nokian, we were pleased to see our UHP sales grow in 2020, despite the challenges the tire industry faced. Our SUV product enjoyed particularly strong growth last year after we invested in new sizes.
Although consumer purchases are trending higher for CUVs and SUVs, there is always a need for performance and power. In recent years, there are many impressive vehicles that are categorized in CUV/SUV, but are equipped with high-output engines. These vehicles are satisfying consumer needs for performance, while providing the space and luxury feel that comes with a vehicle of this size.
Erdem Halulu, vice president of sales, Pirelli Tire North America Inc.: We are still studying the effects of COVID-19 on the market, but from what we see from the tire market overall, including UHP, it has rebounded quite well. Of course, CUV/SUV/pickup UHP tires are typically larger than coupes and sedans, and we see these sizes growing in the market.