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Bigger, Lower, Wider, Higher

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a tire that rides and handles well on the highway.

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The typical AT tire buyer, by comparison, does about 60% of their driving on the highway and about 40% off-road. Most of the off-road driving is recreational, like camping or driving through the backwoods.

A MT tire buyer, on the other hand, is much more concerned about off-road traction and is into off-road adventures, like hill climbing, rock climbing and plowing through mud bogs. The MT tire buyer typically spends only 30% to 40% of his drive time on the highway and the rest making tracks through the wilderness.

Appearance First

An emerging segment, said Pacsi, is the light truck street performance tire. The person who buys this kind of tire does 100% of his driving on the road and is interested mostly in appearance and handling. High performance tire buyers typically go for plus-sizing and want the big, oversized aftermarket alloy wheels and low profile tires.

Gary Enterline, technical marketing manager for Michelin, said wheel sizes are definitely getting larger and larger. The standard for truck tires used to be 15 and 16 inches. Now it’s 16 inches, 17 inches and even bigger. Several vehicle manufacturers are now looking at 18-inch size wheels for light truck and SUV applications in the next year or two.

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"We just introduced a new 24-inch 305/35ZR24 street performance tire in the BFGoodrich line," said Enterline. "BFGoodrich has been sponsoring a number of off-road events and will introduce a new off-road rock climbing tire next year."

Bigger and Bolder

Tire diameters are also increasing. Enterline said 31 inches used to be the maximum outside diameter for a typical LT-metric tire, but vehicle manufacturers are now requesting tires with 32- to 33-inch diameters. "Our biggest tire is currently one with a 35-inch diameter. People want big tires so they can fill up the wheel openings on many of these trucks."

On the high performance side, many tiremakers have been experimenting with 24- to 28-inch diameter extra low profile tires specially designed for light truck/SUV fitments. While not yet in wide-spread production, the fact such size tires are possible is usually enough to create replacement – and even OE ®“ interest.

Where will it end? No one can say because many of the concept SUVs and light trucks that have been shown in recent auto shows suggest tire and rim sizes are only going to get bigger.

Hopefully, that means bigger replacement opportunities and more light truck and SUV application options for tire dealers.

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