The skid steer tire market is a large segment that is often overlooked by tire dealers. According to the experts, this is a mistake that could be harming a dealership’s bottom line.
“Sometimes [a dealer’s] sales staff may walk right by a skid steer if they are focused only on selling the fleet their commercial truck tires because it is not something they may even see,” says Bruce Besancon, vice president of marketing at Alliance Tire Americas.
“Don’t overlook the obvious market that is right in front of you,” he advises.
Once a dealer opens their eyes to the skid steer market, the door to other areas of revenue for the dealer will open as well, Besancon says.
“The other benefit of getting into the skid steer tire market is that a customer with a skid steer is likely to also have other equipment that needs tires, whether it’s loaders, graders, dozers, tractors, manure tankers or other machinery. The skid steer could be an introduction to that business, or a bonus sale to a customer you’re already serving,” Besancon says.
Les Garner, OTR product development manager for China Manufacturers Alliance’s Double Coin brand, agrees that the market can be valuable to tire dealers but is often overlooked.
“The market segment can be extremely profitable based on the dealer’s ability to sell the customer on his needs,” Garner says. But he notes, “the skid steer business is very much thought of second or third.”
Pursuing skid steer tire business can be beneficial to dealers as the skid steer market is strong and growing.
“The skid steer loader is a common piece of equipment used in infrastructure and construction projects for highways, railways, roads, mines and ports as well as in agricultural, landscaping, logging, contracting and refuse/recycling industries. This has led to an increased demand for skid steer loaders and tires for these loaders,” shares Justin L. Brock, compact line business manager at Michelin North America.
“In 2016, we see a strong demand for tires for this equipment including bias, radial and airless radial tires based on the construction market. With an increase in infrastructure projects and building, we expect skid steers will be more frequently utilized in the foreseeable future,” he continues.
Alliance’s Besancon agrees that the outlook for the skid steer market is good.
“As we look out over the next few years, we can see consensus from major OEMs that produce skid steers that there will be growth in the market over the next five years. Some sources even report that growth in skid steer sales could be as high as 16% over the 2015-2020 time period,” he says.
While the tire manufacturers predict no major hurdles in the marketplace, there is always the potential for increased material costs that may drive prices up. Additionally, Besancon notes that the use of tracks on skid steers could impact tire sales.
“While we have not seen this as a wholesale change – tires get better gas mileage, are more mobile and require less maintenance, among other benefits – it is something we as tire manufacturers are always reviewing,” he shares.
Skid steers are being used in a diverse amount of applications, all with varying operating conditions. Technology is an important part of a skid steer tire’s performance in these various conditions.
“Over the years various tread designs and solutions for these tires were born out of the need to address flat tires, traction, productivity, driver comfort, longevity and cost per hour,” says Michelin’s Brock.
Much of the innovation and technology in skid steers comes in the physical construction of the tire, compounding and tread patterns. Some of the technology advances are even borrowed from other segments such as OTR and industrial tires.
One technology still utilized in the skid steer tire market is solid tires and semi solid tires.
“Solids are used in very harsh environments where the risk of flats is high and the cost of downtime to the operator would be too high for a standard tire,” Besancon says.
CMA’s Garner agrees.
“The solid, or semi solid, tire is used in extremely abusive applications such as working in a recycling plant or working in areas that can’t be cleaned up readily,” he says.
Brock notes that solid tires often trade out comfort and traction for durability, so Michelin offers its Tweel technology in skid steer tires to combat these tradeoffs.
“Some users have started opting for the Michelin X Tweel SSL All Terrain because of its ability to offer the benefits that a solid tire provides in flat protection, but also provides great traction, operator comfort and longevity due to its airless radial design,” he shares.
The use of radial pneumatic tires by skid steers has also increased due to their flat protection, longevity, traction and comfort, Brock says.
Meeting the Customer’s Needs
Since skid steer loaders are relatively easy to learn how to operate, and have a plethora of attachments available, almost anyone could be a skid steer user.
“An equipment manufacturer once told me that the marketing of a skid steer to an end user was much more like a car than any other piece of earthmoving equipment – it can be operated by almost anyone, towed behind any pickup and is utilized in almost any application conceivable – all at a price roughly equivalent to a new car,” Besancon shares.
Despite this diverse range of end users, all the tire manufacturers agree that finding the right tire for the job is critical.
“To do this right, the dealer needs to have some understanding that this is not a ‘one tire does everything’ market. Though the skid steer is small and can be used by almost ‘everyone,’ it is a piece of earthmoving equipment and should be treated with respect,” Besancon says.
The end users for skid steer tires all have different expectations of their tires based on their needs. Some users are looking for damage resistance, increased operator comfort, reduced operator fatigue, improved productivity, reduced downtime, longer wear life and traction.
“In order to break into the skid steer tire market it is first important to have an understanding of the market and the various uses of the machine. Training will be vital in order to better understand the various skid steer tire offerings and how to make a proper tire recommendation for the consumers’ needs,” says Michelin’s Brock.
“Dealers staying up to date on training and literature of all the various skid steer tire solutions and tread designs will help ensure confidence from the consumer when recommending a tire,” he says.
Garner agrees that dealer education can help them better serve their skid steer customer.
“If the dealer would educate the end user on the different technologies that are available for their application, that would be a real big thing,” he says. “Typically a dealer’s salesman will just take an order and doesn’t ask more questions. The guys that are good will get very specific on application.”
Since downtime is so detrimental to skid steer users, having the right tires in stock is critical, the manufacturers say.
“Operators lose money every minute a machine is down. For that reason, having excellent responsiveness and the tires in stock are some of the best ways to stand out,” Brock shares. “The proliferation of sizes for the skid steer tire market is small. This means that dealers do not need to carry that many sizes to cover the majority of the market. The main three sizes will cover the majority of the market. However, dealers may want to have a number of different inventory solutions and tread designs on hand, based on the customers’ application and frequency of replacement.”
Popular sizes in skid steer tires are 300/70R16.5 (12R16.5) and 260/70R16.5 (10R16.5). However, the 360/70R17.5 (14R17.5) has been a growing segment.