Max Traction (M/T) tires, more commonly known as mud-terrain tires, are the ultimate off-road tire with an aggressive tread design and strong tread compounds developed to withstand and perform on severe, uneven surfaces. This “small but mighty” tire segment has grown tremendously since the start of the pandemic as the demand for pickup trucks and SUVs has increased.
When mandatory COVID-19 quarantine upended daily normalcy in 2020, more consumers decided to take up outdoor hobbies like vehicle off-roading. Even as restrictions have lifted, drivers have continued to embrace off-road culture. According to industry data, the M/T segment continued to grow over the last decade with shipments gaining nearly one million units over the last five years.
The M/T tire segment is driven by off-road enthusiasts, many of whom are seeking replacement tires in alternate sizes that are different than the original fitment of their vehicle. With this, it is critical for tire dealers to have the knowledge base to ensure they are installing the appropriate applications. Putting the wrong size tire on a vehicle would be like wearing the wrong size shoe all day, causing the driver to have trouble comfortably and safely maneuvering in rough terrain.
It is also imperative that dealers first identify the intended use of the vehicle to properly select the right tire for a customer. For example, an all-terrain (A/T) tire may be a better fit for drivers seeking an M/T tire who aren’t doing as much off-roading. As an example, the Firestone Destination A/T2 is an all-weather tire designed for trusted performance – on or off-road. This tire gives you the best of both worlds: rugged off-road dependability plus on-road handling. On the other hand, a mud-terrain tire like the Firestone Destination M/T2 is designed to provide dry, wet and snow traction on the road and perform on the trail off-road. The Destination M/T2 features mud and stone rejectors for tread cleanout and a three-ply sidewall construction. These features give consumers who frequently off-road maximum performance in the most treacherous conditions.
In the future, we expect the M/T segment will continue to grow. We are seeing a steady trend toward demand for larger, higher rim diameters among M/T customers – a trend that is also currently reflected in the tire industry overall. As technology advances, consumers are also learning to expect more out of the tires they are purchasing with minimal trade-offs. The growth in the off-roading community has resulted in more grassroots activities and events like Overland Expo where manufacturers can showcase off-road products directly to enthusiasts. These are also great opportunities for dealers to tap into the M/T customer market.
Bottom line, we expect consumer tastes and habits will continue to drive the Max Traction segment forward as an increasingly important component of the overall industry.
Brad Robison is senior product manager overseeing the Bridgestone and Firestone consumer replacement tire portfolio for CUVs, SUVs, and pickups covering the U.S. and Canada. In this role, Brad helps guide new products from inception to market and ensures they continue to meet the market demands throughout the product lifecycle.