The UK Big Winter Tyre dilemma
Since 2010, the UK has seen increased sales in winter tyres due to the recent longer and colder winter months. The Met Office has recently shown that last year alone between October and March 147 days were all below 7°C. The introduction of winter tyres in the UK first gathered pace in 2000, but really started to take hold in 2005, as motorists started looking overseas to our Dutch neighbours – with a similar climate and general small size, their winter tyre demands rose to take a share of over a fifth of their national tyre market.
By 2006 major tyre manufacturers like Michelin started to develop the market, in addition to long-standing winter tyre advocates like Continental and Vredestein. The idea behind Michelin winter brands was to excel at working efficiently under the 7°C window, which is experienced by the UK in many months of the year. They were soon marketed as “Cold Weather Tyres” rather than the normal “Winter Tyres”. This was due to the lack of snowfall each year. This was until 2010, since when a significant amount of snowfall was pouring in each year during the cold months. This is where the sales of “Winter Tyres” propelled, with sales peaking in 2011 at over 300,000 units. However, it’s been on a decrease ever since – but why?
One theory cites the blame of the market’s best kept secret: the “All Season Tyre”. As the winter tyre was taking centre stage, the all season tyre was actually out-selling its main rival behind the scenes. With sales reaching over 400,000 units since 2010 why is the all season tyre only just starting to make it to our screens? When compared to the winter tyre the all season tyre out performs it with cheaper cost, the all year use and the practicality of having one set for the whole year, and with companies like Hankook producing an anti ageing bond for their brand, they are set to last longer as well. The biggest issue is when the snow and icy conditions are a regular occurrence; usually between December to February. Here, the winter tyre is the out and out performer with the all season still struggling with grip and performance; yet we can still see a significant number of all season tyres sell on a consistent basis, and more all season tyres seem to be sold each year then their competitor.
Mark Grace from Marketing at Hankook Tyres seems to still have faith with winter tyres. But still backs the all season tyre as a good option. “British drivers are more aware than ever of the benefits of fitting winter tyres and, in recent years, demand has been so high that dealers have sold out of stock. This usually happens during icy spells, suggesting that UK consumers are reacting to conditions rather than planning ahead for the colder months. Hankook have experienced positive sales results for both winter and all-season options, as more people being to understand the importance of choosing the correct tyre.”
Grace continued with “Many people mistakenly believe that winter tyres are only for use in the snow and ice but that simply isn’t the case” It seems that the lack of knowledge and the price of winter tyres seem to be putting motorists off the idea. Even though the price of winter brands are close to their summer counterpart, the initial fitting and storing could be more costly with people not having the space to store the winter tyres in the summer period.
This is were the all-season brands sell themselves, Grace continued to point out “for those that still feel winter tyres are too inconvenient or costly, all-season tyres can be a good compromise, but they are just that – a compromise.” The main difference with the all season tyres is they perform well in ‘Cold conditions’ but not in snow and ice.
The financial climate is effecting customers buying the tyre with a study showing two thirds of the UK are influenced by price when choosing their tyre and the financial pressure shows, with research undertaken from Micheldever showing that 59 per cent of the vehicles surveyed had at least one tyre with tread depth below the legal requirement of 1.6mm and over 95 per cent of vehicles had a tyre with below 2mm. Falken Tyres’ Matt Smith says “ without a doubt, swapping to winter tyres is a sensible approach for any motorist planning to drive even moderate distances in weather. But encouraging customers to buy a second set of tyres that are only practical for a limited timeframe can be difficult when cash-strapped consumers are already opting for part-worns, or purchasing individual tyres per dealer visit”. It could be argued that merging the summer and winter tyre offers a cheaper and more simple solution to gripping in the winter months. This has lead to huge investment from the main manufacturers, including Falken, who have not just developed an “all season tyre”, but invented an all-new rubber compound with an anti ageing mechanism added to the lower reservoir tread. From there it continuously feeds the outer tread and protects against wear of the running surfaces.
So, it seems tyre manufacturers are investing heavily in the “all season” tyre option, whilst still heavily endorsing their “winter” and “cold weather” options – the decision on tyre choice lies firmly in your hands. Regardless of this, we trust you will choose to mount your ‘second set’ of tyres to a set of our alloy or steel wheels.
Source: Wheelwright Blog