CUV/SUV tires continue to grow and adapt

CUV/SUV tires continue to grow and adapt

Replacement tires will follow OEM trends toward fuel-efficiency while still meeting performance needs.

By now, tire dealers are used to the significant, steady growth of the CUV/SUV vehicle market, and the corresponding tires that go with them. Savvy dealers have likely devoted many hours to training staff and chatting with customers about this segment, and for good reason: the CUV/SUV vehicle market continues to grow its share, going from roughly 30% in 2012 to more than 50% in 2023, according to David Poling, vice president of R&D and technical for Giti Tire R&D Center (North America) Inc.

The good news is that CUV/SUV tire market share is poised to continue increasing, so dealers who have put in the time and resources to be seen as experts in this segment will still reap the rewards.

“This has been a linear trend over the last 10 years that we don’t expect will change very much as the CUV/SUV market continues to eat away at the sedan market,” Poling said.

Andrew Hyland, LT/4X4 on-road product manager for Continental Tire, agreed that CUV and SUV tire demand has increased — and will continue to do so — due to the popularity of these vehicle types.

“As OEMs steer business strategies to more CUV/SUV vehicles, tire demand follows accordingly,” he said. “General Tire believes the segment will only continue to grow over the next few years, as the larger vehicle trend does not appear to slow down.”

Fuel efficiency trends

As with most segments, fuel efficiency and the desire for increased miles per gallon has had an effect on the CUV/SUV vehicle market. However, just how much it will impact the corresponding tire segment remains to be seen.

“The main driver for fuel efficiency has come from the OEMs,” said Poling. “The replacement market has not been as affected by fuel efficiency and is largely still driven by treadwear and all-season performance.”

According to Hyland, the desire for increased fuel efficiency affects all aspects of vehicle development, including tires.

“General Tire recognizes the importance of fuel efficiency and incorporates material and construction advancements without sacrificing grip and tread life, which provides value to our end consumers,” he said.

Striving to improve MPG

As tire manufacturers adapt their CUV/SUV offerings to incorporate greater fuel efficiency, they must do so without sacrificing performance.

“As tire manufacturers, we are continually working on new technologies to improve fuel efficiency while minimizing the impact on treadwear and wet performance,” Poling said. “The technical triangle between these three attributes continues to challenge and drive all our innovation as the OEMs demand improvements in fuel efficiency.”

He said currently, at the top of the list are low rolling resistance compounds, not only in the tread but in every rubber compound that makes up a tire.

“It’s just not good enough anymore to have only low RR tread compounds,” Poling said. “Additionally, we continue to innovate around the reinforcement materials to reduce the mass, but at the same time yield equivalent strength and rigidity.”

Hyland added that many factors affect the fuel efficiency of a tire, including materials, construction, shape and aerodynamic considerations.

“General Tire conducts extensive research and testing to continuously improve the fuel efficiency while maintaining tread life and other performance characteristics our customers value,” he said.

By definition, CUV/SUVs are not only people movers but “utility vehicles,” so strength and long life are key factors in their design.

Other consumer expectations

In addition to increased fuel efficiency, customers in the CUV/SUV segment seek ride comfort, long tread life and top-notch performance.

“Consumers who drive CUV/SUV vehicles expect a smooth and quiet ride as these vehicles become more upscale,” Poling said. “The tire trend, especially for CUVs, is away from HT tires toward touring tires that deliver on this smooth and quiet ride. Larger, more traditional SUVs still trend toward HT tires.”

He added that for consumers who do research online prior to their tire purchase, there may be an increased awareness of wet performance.

“There is also an interesting subset of consumers who want to put AT tires on their CUV/SUV; this trend goes all the way down to smaller CUVs using 225/65R17 tires,” Poling said.

By definition, CUV/SUVs are not only people movers but “utility vehicles,” so strength and long life are other key factors, according to Hyland.

“The General Tire Altimax RT45 and Grabber HTS60 tire lines deliver a high level of grip, long tread life, and fuel efficiency that CUV/SUV drivers value,” he added.

Serving tire customers

Since there is a great deal of variety when fitting CUV and SUV vehicles, it’s important for tire dealers to consider vehicle performance requirements, driving styles and purpose when it comes to meeting customer expectations.

“Customer qualification is key in any tire segment,” Hyland said. “Focusing on the customer’s driving habits, preferences of performance characteristics, and making sure to meet the load index and speed rating requirements of the customer’s vehicle are paramount.”

Poling said because we live in the “information age,” most customers have already done some research prior to visiting the tire dealer. Therefore, the best thing tire dealers can do is ask the customer questions to learn their daily driving routine and what type of performance they would like from their tires.

“It’s also important to understand the needs of traditional SUVs defined by full-frame platforms that are dominated by HT tires, and the CUVs defined by unibody platforms that are dominated by touring tires,” he added.

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