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Three Opportunities to Grow Your M/T Tire Business

It was January of 1964 when Bob Dylan released his third studio album and told us about the times and how they were a-changin’. And things were changing, indeed. The Beatles took America by storm, NASA was making strides toward space travel, and President Lyndon B. Johnson escalated U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. 

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There are inflection points in history, and 1964 was probably one of them. The year 2020 was like that, as well. Now, how you use 2021 and the years that follow will determine if you experience a decade like the Roarin’ 20s or one of stagnation and atrophy. The focus, skills and tactics that helped your business succeed to this point won’t be all that’s needed to take your business to the next level a decade from now. 

This means you must innovate. One of the ways to do that is by expanding your offerings, perhaps to your adventure-seeking mud-terrain tire customers. 

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Here’s why: Despite supply chain constraints, light truck sales are up almost 17% over the past year, SUV and CUV sales are up almost 19% and pickup sales are robust at +8% on the dot, according to Wards Auto. Meanwhile, car sales trended downward to a tune of 4.5% over the past year.

While 2020 was rough on Americans’ wallets, consumer spending was up slightly at 0.8%, while disposable income growth was up nearly 6% with a little help from Uncle Sam, according to IHS Markit. The good news is that consumer spending is projected to grow to more than 7% this year with disposable income growth at a solid 6.5%.

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The fact that consumers are buying larger vehicles, and people with more money are actually predicted to spend it, is a recipe for opportunity.   

Don’t believe me? Here’s an example to illustrate my point: The brand new 2021 Cadillac Escalade starts at just shy of $78K for the base model, according to Car & Driver. However, a full 43% of Escalade buyers are paying more than $100K for upgraded models with all the extras. Case in point.

Expand Your Offerings

In the context of the tire industry, the passenger and light truck tire segments have been our bread and butter for a long time. But, expanding your offering goes beyond simply selling mud-terrain tires to your consumers. 

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You must clearly communicate to your customers that you specialize in installing M/T tires. That means having the right equipment to handle a 76-pound M/T tire. That means having the right personnel on staff who are capable of mounting large diameter tires onto (oftentimes expensive) large diameter, aftermarket wheels. And, with safety being paramount, spend a little extra money to invest in a tire inflation cage and maybe even a little extra training for your team.

Educate Your Team

Success in the M/T tire market also means knowing what you’re selling. While there are plenty of cutting-edge tire compounding technologies that go into building an industry-leading M/T tire, the main performance attributes of this segment include: a robust compound, chunk and chip resistance, ultra-high strength steel belts and aggressive tread patterns with mud and stone rejector technology.

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Barry Terzaken, product manager for crossover, SUV and light truck for Continental and General Tires, describes an M/T tire as such: “The body of the tire needs to be supple enough to conform to irregular surfaces and provide grip, while simultaneously being rugged enough to resist puncture and tearing under these grueling conditions.”

Terzaken adds that M/T tread patterns are designed to provide grip on a variety of surfaces such as mud, smooth rocks, sharp rocks, gravel, dirt and sand.

Iris Ocasio, product planner, Bridgestone Americas Tire and Solutions Group, U.S. and Canada, says that an M/T tire’s sidewall is also stronger and reinforced, which helps the vehicle navigate sharp and rocky edges.

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Capitalize on Around-The-Wheel Opportunities

Let’s be honest: 35-inch mud terrain tires simply aren’t for everyone. They might not be for the casual Jeep driver who likes the feeling of sitting up high in their Wrangler Rubicon. They’re probably not for the commuter who cares more about a smooth, quiet, comfortable ride on the highway. But 35-inch M/T tires are for the type of consumer who’s interested in other options to make their vehicle look and drive a bit more aggressively.

We can call these “around-the-wheel” opportunities—a way for you to provide value to a consumer and add to your bottom line by offering complementary products such as custom wheels, body and suspension lifts, aftermarket suspension and exhaust systems, off-road air intake kits, and maybe even a little body work to round out the rugged, off-road look of the vehicle.

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The good news is that it doesn’t take many sizes to cover the M/T basics: 35×12.50R20, 33×12.50R20, 33×12.50R22, and 35×12.50R24 should do the trick. Adding a set of 37×13.50R26 M/Ts on display in your showroom clearly conveys to your enthusiast consumers that you’re serious about this segment.

If you haven’t yet seized the opportunity to attract and serve the type of consumer who’s likely to buy a set of 35×12.50R20 M/T tires and a six-inch suspension lift, this may be the call to action you’ve been waiting for. If you already serve the mud-terrain tire consumer, what will you do to elevate your offering even further in 2021?

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