Continental: Car patterns to feature on 4×4 tyres
When it comes to the development of the 4×4 tyre segment, there are still two sides to the market, according to a Continental UK analysis. But on one side at least there are clear signs of the car-ification of 4×4 tyre line, something that has developed in parallel with continued purchase of SUV type four wheelers.
This is the first side of the predominately road-orientated SUV tyre sector, where the driver and manufacturer require car-like handling, fuel consumption and acoustic properties. Continental representatives told Tyres & Accessories that this means more car tread patterns will be used for these vehicles. Noise legislation has also helped towards this move.
New derivatives mean that they are many more SUVs on the market. And drivers and fleets continue to require that these cars deliver good fuel consumption. This means designs are moving towards lower rolling resistance tyres with tread patterns that have been traditionally found in the more car-orientated end of the product spectrum.
Continental’s new ContiSportContact 5 tyre is said to be a good example of this trend as the tyre will shortly be available in SUV sizes as well as UHP car sizes.
The second market is the enthusiast and application market, where people regularly use their vehicles for off-road driving or where they need their vehicles for specific applications such as pulling horse boxes out of muddy fields. These all-terrain and mud-terrain tyres need to have the off road capability, but also meet all the on road regulations such as noise. This is a challenge that faces this market where significant steps forward in design are needed to cope with these demands to keep off road capabilities but reduce noise levels. The latest generation of Continental-produced General AT is said to be a good example of this.
Winter 4×4 tyre sales on the up
As Tyres & Accessories reported in last year’s 4×4 tyre market special feature (see “Was winter of discontent good news for the 4×4 market?”, Tyres & Accessories, March 2010), four wheel drive vehicles have increased in popularity with the harsher winters that we have had in recent years. But whilst 4×4 vehicles may give some increased mobility, to really take advantage of these vehicles’ capabilities in winter, a winter tyre is the needed. This is especially true on ice where the arguably more generically winter qualifying M&S tyre is fitted. In this case the chunkier tread won’t help control heavier vehicles stop the wheels spinning.
Although the percentage of winter tyres sales across the whole market is around 1 per cent, Continental estimates that just under 3 per cent of 4×4 sales in the UK and Ireland were winter tyres during 2010. It is also worth reporting that some large wholesalers experienced two, three and even four times the overall winter tyre sales volumes they expected during 2010, which means the figures could have been even higher. When you consider the low level niche status winter tyres have traditionally occupied in the UK market, the disproportionately high numbers of 4×4 winter tyres is quite striking.