Market view: MTS/Southam on 4×4 tyres
Micheldever Tyre Services distributed in excess of 800,000 4×4 tyres in the UK tyre market in 2011, especially through its Southam division which has a history specialising in the 4×4 sector. According to the company, this makes Southam “probably the largest distributor of 4×4 tyres in Europe.”
Looking forward into 2012, company representatives warn that major changes face the 4×4 market, particularly in the off-road sector, where traditional all-terrain and mud-terrain patterns are being forced to change in the face of increasingly tough noise regulations. And with tyre labelling being rolled out from June this year, followed by mandatory implementation in November before the rules are upgrade a few years later, this trend is set to continue.
Retaining excellent off-road traction with lower noise levels, improved wet grip and lower rolling resistance is a huge challenge, and as yet only mastered by the top premium 4×4 manufacturers like General Tire whose Grabber All-Terrain is the market leader in the all-terrain sector.
General’s 4×4 tyre range is the most extensive in the market, the quality perfect, and performance unbeatable, and the manufacturer has a strong interface with our 4×4 specialist team resulting in unique sizes for our 4×4 customers, such as specific 17” All-Terrain fitments for the Japanese pick-up market, and most importantly 19” and 20” for big SUV’s with off-road requirements.
Currently one of only a few businesses specialising in this market segment (through the Southam wing), Micheldever Tyre Services offers next/same day delivery nationally across, all major brands, including every OE fitment. In addition a comprehensive range of high quality budget 4×4 tyres from Enduro, and the market leading mid-range replacement brands in BFGoodrich, General, Kumho, Falken, Insa Turbo and Toyo are on offer.
Talking to Alan Baldwin, MTS wholesale director, it is clear that – as far as this leading company is concerned – all is not lost in the current financial climate for the 4×4 tyre. Far from it. “In many areas strong growth continues with new 4×4 vehicles like the stunning Range Rover Evoque. Replacement 4×4 tyre sales continue to benefit from the continual growth in the 4×4 vehicle parc for the last ten years, and the recent wave of 4×4 vehicle sales fitted with 19 inch tyres and larger, have faster wear rates, providing excellent business.”
Brand and product performance key
Alan Baldwin reports little growth in budget 4×4 tyre sales, unlike with car tyres, premium 4×4 brands are said to be remaining strong, particularly in the UHP/SUV sector with brands like Pirelli, Continental and Bridgestone having strong pull-through from their OE growth.
Due to their extra weight and torque, 4×4 vehicles are highly demanding in performance criteria, with high centres of gravity and the need for off-road performance dictating the fitment of aggressive patterns. Very cheap budget products are often found lacking, and stopping a low cost MT pattern tyre on wet tarmac can be a testing experience.
According to the company, General 4×4 is MTS/Southam star performer, offering “all the quality of its Continental heritage,” but apparently with advantageous mid-range pricing. Working hand in hand with General’s engineers, Southam’s specialist 4×4 division believe they have identified many niche sizes that are now providing strong sales results for MTS customers.
BFGoodrich is said to remain the darling of the AT/MT serious off-road sector with strong wear rates reportedly leading to good consumer retention, and the new BFGoodrich KM2 has already found acclaim as the finest Mud-Terrain tyre around.
In addition MTS describeds Insa turbo as “the best 4×4 retread available, with serious off-road patterns for any terrain.”
Another serious growth area in 4×4 vehicle sales has been the incredibly good value, highly specified Korean 4×4 vehicles, resulting in very strong growth for Kumho, a major OE supplier.