We need to torque about speed ratings: power, speed and electric vehicle tyre fitments
Pirelli’s “power is nothing without control” strapline is well-known and apt. But, as we move further into the era of electric vehicles, should we be thinking: speed-ratings mean nothing without considering torque? In July 2003 my predecessor Peter Gardner published “Let’s torque speed ratings”, an editorial article that followed suggestions from within the tyre business that we reconsider what we mean by those letter values so-often tagged onto the end of tyre sizes. The discussion was specifically prompted by Stephen Marsh (then of Stapleton’s Tyre Services) who made the point that the power transference properites of millennial engines is as important as the absolute speed capability of tyres. In other words, when recommending products, the tyre business should be just as concerned about a vehicle’s torque demands as its top-speed capability.
Even for the best forward-planners, 2020 was a year of surprises. And while the word “unprecedented” has been worn out during the last 12 months, it is difficult to find another more appropriate term. With everything from business closures, to a global pandemic (and with the pandemic resulting in lockdowns, factory closures and spikes in online and mobile tyre business), there certainly has been a lot going on. That’s why in January we crunched the numbers relating to our website traffic in order to find our what exactly were the top 10 stories of 2020.
Brexit, Covid and shipping cost increases point to tyre price hikes in 2021
After months of mounting pressure on UK ports, the automotive industry is bearing visible signs of strain. Specifically, Honda UK halted production at its Swindon factory in December 2020 because it couldn’t get the right parts in time to continue production. But the ramifications don’t end there. General UK tyre supply is likely to be impacted too. And the result of the Brexit and Covid market pressures as well as shipping cost increases are likely to result in tyre industry price hikes during 2021.
On 23 November, Oxford Dictionaries declared that “unprecedented” is the word of year. Normally the world famous English language experts choose just one word to sum up the preceding 12 months, but such was the cumulative uniqueness of the series of events that has characterised 2020, this year they chose several “words of an unprecedented year” – a move that is itself unprecedented. So why not use their zeitgeist-capturing collection of novel verbiage as a way of reviewing 2020 from a tyre business perspective?
Our virtual Tyre Industry Conference, in association with the National Tyre Distributors Association and supported by CAM, is available now. Click here to go to our conference page. The conference comprises four videos on Tyre Market Data, Tyre Standards, end of Life Tyres, and Tyre Recycling. If you would like to comment on any of the contents, use our social media pages and the hashtag #TIC2020, or email email@example.com.
It is somewhat ironic that the number 2020 has inherent associations with perfect vision and yet this year has turned out to be the most unpredictable in a lifetime. For example, no-one saw President Trump’s twitter-borne sideswipe at Goodyear’s tyres coming last month – how could they? However, on a more serious note, the effects of uncertainty has real-life impact. And this month has seen more than its fair share of such harsh realities in the tyre industry.
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This publication stands by a long-standing precedent of being a-political. Rather like the saying that it is bad manners to talk religion or politics while dining, we have historically opted not to take a line on such issues. Propriety aside, there is another particular good reason for this approach. During the nearly eight decades since Tyres & Accessories was published in 1946, 16 prime ministers and many more governments have come and gone, but one thing has remained: the motoring public’s demand for tyres has continued and even grown in the medium and long-term. But this column isn’t finishing school, so why the discussion on protocol? We don’t normally engage in politics, but this month politics engaged with the tyre business more directly than ever before when US President Donald Trump told US motorists: “Don’t buy GOODYEAR TIRES”, adding: “Get better tires [sic] for far less!” (see pages President Trump attacks Goodyear for further details of the furore).
The road to recovery – MOT spikes, diagnostics and all-season tyres in context
With the UK and many other European countries having experienced three months of lockdown, most sources are predicting full-year 2020 car tyre sales declines of around 25 per cent. The most optimistic appear to be suggesting 10 per cent drop, but how likely is a 90 per cent recovery by the end of the year? The good news is that there are reasons to suggest the post-lockdown tyre market is on the road to recovery.
Looking forward to recovery – be it L, U or V-shaped
Last month this column considered the range of 2020 market projections that existed. In short, as the column concluded, the consensus is that tyre demand will decline somewhere between 15 and 26 per cent during the course of this year. However, such a conclusion may also be on the conservative side. Certainly, when you talk with tyre wholesalers and distributors on the ground, some of those that didn’t opt to close their doors for a few weeks experienced even more marked declines in the short-term. Reports of tyre shops running on demand 70 to 75 per cent less than pre-lockdown levels are not uncommon. And yet, as lockdown eases across various UK and European markets – as well as beyond – the focus is quite rightly shifting to recovery.
Things are changing so quickly at the moment that most analyses end up little more than speculation two weeks later. That’s why Tyrepress contains both the latest news and seeks to set such developments into their medium- and long-term contexts. Take our Tyre Retail coverage for example (see 2020 UK tyre retail ranking and Which garages are open during lockdown) where we list both the current proportions of open tyre retailers and analyse the overall UK tyre retail landscape in its seven-year context.
By the time you read this a quarter of the world will be on some kind of lockdown along with virtually every car plant in Europe and many tyre factories. We are in uncharted territory. And, as ETRMA secretary general Fazilet Cinaralp said recently, we have to brace ourselves for “one of the biggest challenges our industry has ever faced”. And yet there have already been numerous examples of endeavour, enterprise and generosity in the face of such adversity.
As the February 2020 issue of Tyres & Accessories goes to press, the United Kingdom is officially leaving the European Union after three years of intense dispute and debate. At the same time, 2019 wasn’t a great year for the automotive and tyre industries (see page 36 onwards for further details of what has transpired during the last 12 months). And with a no-deal scenario presenting the possibility of import tariffs on and parts, 2020 doesn’t look like it is going to be a whole bunch better. However, while the disappointing performance of the car and tyre markets is linked to Brexit, the issues are not one and the same.
Counterfeiting: Flattery or just illegal imitation?
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, according to Oscar Wilde. But businesses don’t tend to be so charitable in their interpretation of such actions. Indeed, industrial counterfeiting, copyright breaches and general contempt for intellectual property are all-too common. The most recent example of copyright dispute in the tyre industry saw one of the world’s largest and longest established tyremakers pitted against a relative unknown.
Goodyear and Halfords moves represent the virtualization of the tyre distribution chain
The ongoing effects of import tariffs, Brexit uncertainty and structural changes in the distribution chain have all affected the tyre business this year. As well as featuring the latest motorsport news and covering market developments in our regular features, this month’s Tyres & Accessories focuses on a number of key examples of changes in the marketplace in our Review of the Year feature. But one trend stands out above the others – virtualization. In short, increasing moves towards electric and autonomous vehicles (complete with their inherent sensorisation tendencies), coupled with changes in vehicle (and tyre) ownership models such as MaaS (Mobility as a Service) are driving changes in the tyre market that are resulting in the virtualizing of parts of the distribution chain.
Tyre people often remind us that the tyre is a vehicle’s only point of contact with the ground. This is, of course, true and a very salient point. However, as tyres get smarter, so are roads and infrastructure.