UK Agricultural Tyre market: a steady decline but still good business
The Agricultural tyre sector in the UK has had a tough year. It began with the aftermath of Foot and Mouth. There was an extremely wet start to the year. Then a prolonged dry period – the driest – if not the hottest – in 25 years.
Wet weather usually means more sales for the agricultural sector, but too much rain just stops the market in its tracks – no pun intended. That was the case early in the year. When the weather turned dry the public lapped up the sunshine and the long dry spell, but farmers anticipating the traditional UK summer were faced with their own dry weather difficulties.
However, tyres and traction were not amongst their troubles. Dry fields do not create traction problems and the agriculture sector stretched the mileage of existing tyres well beyond their expected lifespan. The result has been a drop in the overall market of something around 10 per cent.
The wider agricultural market is dominated by Michelin, Goodyear, Continental and Bridgestone in the UK – with the big players accounting for around 60 per cent of the market. Although just how big the market is no-one can say. That 60 per cent represents almost two thirds of the premium brand tyre market. It does not include the figures of the budget brand sector. As with the car and truck sectors there is no hard evidence to confirm the sales figures at the bottom end of the market. Asking tyre companies about market share results in a sum that is greater than the whole. But general consensus places Michelin group at the head of the market, followed by Goodyear Dunlop, then Continental and Bridgestone followed by Trelleborg/Pirelli and Vredestein.
In order to sell tyres it is, in every sector, important to know who, or what, the customer is and what is being sought. It might be a fair assumption to say that the farmer expects tyres to do the job they are asked to do. That, in itself, is open to interpretation. The contractor may be keeping an eye on the slip meter in the cab and be watching for the point of diminishing returns from a set of tyres; changing them at the point when they become inefficient for his purposes. Another farmer using the same tyres may take a different approach, saying that so long as they hold air they will stay on the tractor. Somewhere in-between there are those who only change tyres when they are damaged beyond repair – they may change the tractor at the same time as the tyres. In marketing tyres to the top end of the agricultural sector though, there must be an assumption made that the people prepared to pay the premium price for a leading brand tyre must have some concept of tyre management and an eye on productivity and efficiency.