The long-term trends associated with the UK’s ultra-high performance tyre segment have continued to develop in line with expectations, but the latest data from market analyst GfK reveals the unspooling effects of three segment defining factors: car-makers’ increased specification of 17” and 18” tyres on mass market, sub-premium models; the broader context of the UK’s high inflation-low growth economic environment; and the rising availability of low-cost tyres from manufacturers outside the premium (and even mid-range) tier. The last of these trends show why the term “ultra-high performance tyres” (or UHP tyres) is inherently suspect, just as “performance tyres” previously became a term applied to the majority of car tyres. The data we discuss in this article refers to high rim diameter products, encompassing everything from 17” up to the specialist products pushing well into the 20s. The tyre demands of new cars in the last decade and more have trended upwards to make the lower end of this range a regulation fitment on family hatchbacks and saloons.
The years since 2020 have brought with them more than their fair share of upheaval. However, throughout that period the growth in importance of SUV and 4×4 tyre sales has continued basically unabashed. With that in mind Tyres & Accessories asked the market research specialists at GfK for their view on the latest headline trends in the UK market. However, while this article zeroes in on the UK market, the UK market position as an established leader in the wider European market take-up of SUVs – and therefore SUV tyres – means the trends identified are also relevant across the continental tyre markets.
Challenging trading conditions persist in the UK thanks to various interlocking crises, though 2022’s replacement tyre market demonstrates the way some segments resisted the strong headwinds better than others. While overall tyre sales (units) were basically flat versus 2021, any anticipated surging recovery from a pandemic induced nadir was, broadly speaking, put off for another year. Contrastingly, the value of the overall market surged, though this effect was more due to inflation and increasing prices than a switch towards higher-value products. Having said this, the picture painted by analyst GfK’s data, based on the company’s “panelmarket” of tyre retail sell-out sources from January to December, is also one of stratification.
GfK data shows that the 17” and above UK tyre replacement market continues to offer both increased volume and value. While the 19” and above segment retains the characteristics of specialised fitments, the top two fitments account for more than one-fifth of replacement tyres sized 17-18”.
During 2020, the whole of the sell-out market declined albeit not as badly as was feared. Still, with the exception of some distinct niches – such as instances in the logistics industry where tyre service providers were kept busy throughout the lockdowns – everyone was affected. SUV tyres were no different and saw overall value and volume figures fall 12 per cent, according to market analyst GfK’s January to December 2020 panelmarket data. 2021, however, was almost the mirror image of 2020 with the value of UK 4×4 and SUV tyre sales up 12 per cent compared with the equivalent full-year 2020 data. In other words, SUV tyre sales returned to growth mode in 2021, something that sets 2022 up for an even better year for those selling SUV and 4×4 tyres.
The 2021 recovery of the UK car, SUV and van tyre (Light Vehicle) replacement market may not have been the desired quick return to pre-pandemic numbers, but GfK data supplied exclusively to Tyres & Accessories gives us some idea of how 2019 market growth areas have preserved continuity through the last two Covid-afflicted years. Tyres designed for the larger rims of higher performance and newer car models, SUV and light commercial vehicle tyres, and tyres offering performance in all seasons continued to grow at quicker rates than the whole UK replacement tyre market. These overall figures, shown in the top left-hand corner of the infographic, show that unit sales increased by three per cent within the panelmarket – similar figures comparing 2020 with 2019 published in February 2021 showed that unit sales contracted by 14 per cent for comparison. Meanwhile, the value of the UK’s Light Vehicle tyre market rose by seven per cent according to the panelmarket. GfK’s panelmarket data tracks points of sale around the UK to indicate aftermarket tyre trends – the data used for this article compares January-December 2021 to full-year 2020.
The UK light commercial vehicle tyre market had a relatively dynamic year in 2020, with value and volume changes in certain sub-segments driven by an increase in higher rim diameter tyre sizes, as well as increased demand for all-season – and even winter – performance. According to GfK panelmarket data, which tracks points of sale, comparing the calendar year 2020 to 2019, these growth subsegments supported a 2020 light commercial vehicle tyre market value change across all rim sizes of 0 per cent, while volume was down only -2 per cent. While LCV operators were not entirely immune to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and its attendant lockdowns, these figures show how the essential services supported by van operators, such as last mile delivery resulting from booming e-commerce, allowed LCV tyres to achieve results within touching distance of pre-pandemic norms.
The car tyres with the largest dimensions represented the segment least negatively affected by the pandemic and its lockdowns in Europe. While UHP tyre demand varied through the lockdowns of 2020 – as you might expect within a segment quickly trending towards 30 per cent of the entire European market – the negative trend was kept relatively under control. This was increasingly the case as you look further up the size range. Tyres & Accessories asked market analyst GfK to examine full-year panelmarket data, which tracks points of sale around the UK to indicate aftermarket tyre trends, for the top 19” and above car tyre segment in calendar year 2020 versus 2019. The infographic on this page shows its characteristics, as well as the relatively mild effects of the last year on retail sales of the highest performance tyres.
For the last few years Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) take-up has continued apace. Indeed, according to the latest UK vehicle registrations figures, cars that can be described as SUVs now occupy a significant portion of new vehicle market share. Indeed, the Nissan Qashqai crossover was the third most popular purchase in February 2021, according to the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). And the Volvo XC40 as well as the Volkswagen T-Roc and Tiguan also figure in the top 10. Of course, all these vehicles need tyres so there is every chance that the recent trend towards SUV tyre replacement sales is also going to continue over the next few years. But what about last year? With these trends in mind, the month’s SUV tyre feature takes a closer look the best products on the market beginning with a detailed look at the latest market data produced in association with GfK.
Common sense seems to dictate that when you tell the majority of the population to stay home, vehicle utilisation – and therefore tyre consumption – should be down across the board. And in a blunt sense the latest full-year panelmarket data from GfK, which tracks points of sale around the UK to indicate aftermarket tyre trends, does show that this happened. However, the latest infographic from the automotive market data analyst also reveals a few more subtle patterns to consumer behaviour in the difficult 12 months of 2020, compared with the previous period. This article is available in Tyres & Accessories’ February issue.
Following what was generally regarded as an insightful presentation on the impact of coronavirus on global, European and UK tyre markets, the panel for our “New Tyres in Corona-World” Virtual Tyre Industry Conference 2020 session (James Ward, senior insight manager, GfK; Andrea Manenti, VP north region, Bridgestone; and Pravesh Amtha, Sales General Manager Consumer UK&I, Goodyear) moved into a discussion relating to how manufacturers are working on creatively supporting the tyre trade in the face of the second lockdown and ongoing pandemic- and economy-related complications.
While van manufacturers have been both developing their electric portfolios and sustaining a double-digit sales contraction in a pandemic affected market, the picture for van tyre suppliers is certainly not as hostile. As we will see in this feature, the requirements of e-commerce and electric vehicles are providing new impetus to van tyre suppliers in the medium term. But 2020 UK figures generated by market data analyst GfK’s Point of Sales Tracking show that the segment is faring better than many with the travails of this year. At the same time, several trends are coalescing to improve the fortunes of van tyre suppliers.
5 November saw the inaugural virtual Tyre Industry Conference, with Tyres & Accessories bringing the traditional annual conference into the virtual arena due to Covid-19 restrictions. Produced in association with the NTDA and supported by Cam Systems, our expert panel was comprised of James Ward, senior insight manager, GfK; Andrea Manenti, VP north region, Bridgestone; and Pravesh Amtha, sales general manager Consumer UK&I, Goodyear. The wide-ranging 45-minute conversation covered a lot of bases, but the first session, which was designed to focus on the new tyre market’s recent trends and statistics began with a presentation from James Ward.
The latest data might show that 4×4 replacement tyre sales are down 6 per cent, however Tyres & Accessories asked market analysts GfK how past trends compare with current realities and found: 4×4 tyres have been hit by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, but far less than most other segments. At the same time, the all-season 4×4 tyre sub-segment witnessed some examples of positive growth.
4×4 retail tyre sales have long been a growth area and the UK market constitutes one of the leading lights in Europe. More recent growth has been driven by similarly strong SUV vehicle sales as well as consumer switches towards all-season products. At the same time, more practical and off-road-orientated vehicles have also been supporting 4×4 tyre sales.
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