Affected by pandemic supply chain disruptions and the uptick in sales of all-weather tires, the winter tire market in the U.S. has been largely flat in recent years. Despite the expectation that this will continue, tire dealers in snowy regions like the northern U.S. and Canada still should plan ahead to meet consumer demand in the segment — particularly for the new subsegment of tires for electric vehicles (EVs).
“The all-weather tire segment is growing rapidly in the current market…and is gradually encroaching on the all-season and winter market,” says Jason Yard, marketing director for Nexen Tire America. “From a consumer’s point of view, using an all-weather tire can reduce the cost of replacing tires in winter or spring, so the all-weather tire is becoming more practical. For this reason, the winter tire market is expected to grow less than 1% over the next five years.”
He adds that while winter tires continue to be popular for sedans and coupes in northern climates, due to shipment issues related to the global pandemic, total winter tire sales dropped roughly 18% during the past two years. As a result, many dealers submitted winter tire orders earlier this year to secure stock for the winter season.
“In Canada, the winter tire segment has seen years with significant growth and is expected to continue to grow in smaller increments in years to come,” says Steve Bourassa, director of products for Nokian Tyres. “In the U.S., where winters are not as frequent, severe or long as they are for their Canadian neighbors, the winter segment is expected to be mostly flat.”
He adds that growing demand for electric vehicles has offered new opportunities for both tiremakers and dealers. Nokian has introduced dedicated EV tires for its Hakkapeliitta 10 (studded) and R5 (non-studded) product lines.
“We construct these EV tires to provide extremely low rolling resistance that helps drivers maximize range,” Bourassa says. “They also feature acoustic foam that helps minimize road noise, and they’re built to handle electric vehicles’ heavier loads.”
Rob Williams, senior vice president of North America sales for Hankook Tire America Corp., says that previously, winter tires made much louder noise and provided shorter mileage. Now, consumers are hoping for improved performance and the quiet, comfortable ride that a typical all-season tire provides.
“With this in mind, it has become extremely important for tire manufacturers to balance these characteristics to enhance winter tire performance,” he says.
Williams agrees that EV-specific winter tires offer a growth opportunity, as Hankook is among several tiremakers planning to launch new products that fit the bill (Hankook will add winter EV tires under its iON product line).
“Just like EVs are different from internal combustion engine vehicles, winter EV tires are also different from all-season EV-specific tires,” he says. “Winter tires are required to carry the weight of EVs, support battery efficiency and strong motor output, while still delivering stability and comfort in snowy and icy conditions.”
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