Formula 4×4: Niche Marketing
Back in 1989 the market researchers were telling the motor industry and the press that the boom in 4×4 vehicles had peaked. Anyone who wanted a 4×4 already had one and the market would stagnate before declining. How wrong they were.
What they failed to recognise was the change in the demographics of the market and the complete change in the image of the 4×4, which, nowadays, we are driven to call a Sports Utility vehicle (SUV). The market is still growing and every vehicle manufacturer in the world has an SUV range, or is planning an SUV range.The growth in the market has been less about the development of the grass roots off road vehicle than the emergence of the SUV as a fashion and lifestyle statement.
There are still those who use their 4×4 for the purpose for which it was designed, either work or leisure, but the phenomenal growth has been in the luxury end of the market where the vehicles may look as if they are designed to tackle the wild mountain tracks, but will be lucky if they clip the kerb in the supermarket car park. The dilemma for the tyre dealer was that the vast majority of tyres for 4×4 vehicles were originally designed for agricultural use and, though, moderately capable in the mud, were less than well suited to road use. As the market developed, the availability of increasingly road biased tyres increased.
As the SUV market grew there also developed a growing demand for higher and higher performance road tyres. Today the advent of the BMW M5 and now the Porsche Cayenne and the continued road refinement of the Range Rover has set an unprecedented demand for high and ultra-high performance road tyres aimed at SUVs. Tread patterns, widths and profiles that wouldn’t look amiss on a sports car now adorn vehicles which have a heritage which harks back to the Willy’s Jeep.