The great tire tier debate

The great tire tier debate

Are tire tiers all smoke and mirrors? Or is something more profound going on here…?

In our latest episode of Rollin’ with the Numbers, Tire Review’s video series based on surveys and research conducted with our independent tire dealer audience, Associate Editor Christian Hinton asks a seemingly simple question: What defines a tire tier?

It’s far from an original question, but it really got my wheels turning. I have my nebulous definition for how I think a tier should be defined – one that I have never put to paper – yet despite the non-specificity of this definition I had the impression that it was a fairly universal one amongst those in the industry.

As it turns out, when you start asking tire dealers to rank the importance of qualities that define the definition of a tire tier, nobody’s on the same page.


The chart avove shows how tire dealers ranked each attribute associated with tire tiers, organized by attributes with the highest “most important” votes at the top of the list. Dark blue and orange lines on the left represent dealers putting that attribute in the first or second position, respectively. Light blue and red on the right represent ninth and tenth positions, respectively.

Here’s where things get interesting. “Product quality” and “product price point” clearly dominate the top of the list, but “depth of product line” comes in dead last… at least at first glance. Yes, only 1% of survey takers ranked this quality as No. 1, but a combined 47% ranked this attribute as second, third, or fourth-most important out of 10. This same logic can be applied to “Global market share,” but in reverse. This attribute is in a three-way tie for third on our list, garnering 8% of first-place votes. Yet, a combined 54% ranked global market share as either eighth, ninth, or tenth place. Over half of tire dealers barely give global market share a second thought when it comes to a tire brand’s tier ranking, yet the attribute comes in third for dealers who find it most important.

Things get even more complex as you begin to examine relationships between attributes that appear to be related despite the rankings telling a different story. “Consumer recognition” and “Advertising budget” would appear to be related (although, of course, this isn’t always the case). Here, consumer recognition landed in the Top 5 for 73% of survey takers. Yet, advertising budget sits at a lowly 20% for Top 5 placement – and that’s despite landing in fourth place overall (or sixth place if you consider the three-way tie for third) when it comes to dealers ranking this attribute as the most important overall.

Here’s the bottom line: Explaining tire tiers is hard. It’s kind of a gut feeling. There are some truths that we observe to help us make sense of it all, but the details are hard to explain. I’m not saying tires are a religion or anything but… well, I’ll just leave it at that.

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