LAS VEGAS-Expecting solid, steady growth in the speed-rated touring and performance tire segments the next few years, Goodyear´s Dunlop brand unit unveiled a trio of performance tires at the recent Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas.
Specifically, Dunlop expects demand for V-, W- and Z-rated touring and performance tires to each grow about 24 percent by year-end 2011, said Todd Hershberger, director of the Dunlop brand.
The number of Z-rated replacement tire shipments has more than doubled in the past six years-to nearly 5 percent of the market last year from 2 percent in 2001, Dunlop officials said, citing industry data. At the same time, shipments of Z-rated tires for original equipment fitment have more than tripled, to 3.3 percent from 1 percent, according to industry figures.
An offering from Dunlop´s professional drifting arsenal, the Direzza Sport Z1, is for hardcore enthusiasts who use their cars for track days, autocrossing and competitions calling for street tires.
The Sport Z1-or "Zed One" as Dunlop refers to it-is available in 20 sizes spanning 195/55R15 84V to 245/45R18 96W. The lawyers persuaded Dunlop to caution that the directional-tread design Z1 shouldn´t be used in snow or near-freezing conditions, company officials said.
Dunlop´s new premium summer ultra-high-performance street tire, the SP Sport Maxx GT, is also headed stateside from overseas. Introduced in Europe earlier this year, the Maxx GT is aimed at serious performance vehicles like the Porsche Carrera S, BMW M5 and M6 and Lamborghini Gallardo, as well as performance variants such as the Audi S4 and S5.
By May, the Sport Maxx GT is expected to be available in quantity in eight sizes, ranging from 235/40R18 95Y to 295/30R19 100Y. More sizes-up to 23-inch rim diameters-will hit the market in August 2008, Dunlop said.
The Maxx GT is an asymmetrical design, which allows side-to-side tire rotation on vehicles with different front and rear wheel/tire sizes.
Dunlop has been working to give the two tires marketing traction. In September, the Direzza Sport Z1 was used during the road course segment of the Dunlop Drivers Cup at Virginia International Raceway.
At the SEMA Show, Canadian tuner and car builder Marcel Horn had the "mad Maxx" tires on his 565-horsepower Audi TT, and the machine took Sony Computer Entertainment´s "Best in Show" and "Best European Import" awards.
However, it´s Dunlop´s third new tire-the SP Sport Signature, aimed at the all-season performance touring tire segment-that may have the biggest market impact.
Joel Fox, a district manager for Vespia Tire Centers, said the Signature line is a volume mover for the 27-store dealership based in South River, N.J. He said the tires are well-priced and especially popular in 205/50R17, 225/ 45R17, 235/45R17 and 245/45R18 sizes.
One of several tire dealers, distributors and journalists at a ride-and-drive briefing in Las Vegas on the new Dunlops, Fox said he was impressed that H- and V-speed-rated SP Sport Signature tires carry a 60,000-mile tread life warranty.
"They handle very well. Their older tire, the FM901, wasn´t very good in the wet and tended to slide around," Fox said after trying out the tires on a wet/dry autocross in BMW 3 Series sedans.
Seven W-rated SP Signatures, from 225/45R17 94W to 245/45R18 100W, are available now, company officials said. An eighth, a 20-inch in 245/35, is expected to be in the distribution channel soon, bringing Dunlop´s "Signature Power Line" to 50 sizes.
The SP Sport´s inboard tread is designed for wet performance while the outer zone is tailored for maximum grip on dry roads.
Dunlop said handling in wet and dry tests revealed improvements of 8.5 and 4.3 percent, respectively, compared with the SP Sport A2 Plus.