AKRON—Demand for high-performance tires in the U.S. increased in 2017 for the eighth straight year and now accounts for nearly 56 percent of original equipment and 45 percent of replacement market shipments, according to latest U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association data.
Aftermarket shipments in the U.S. of tires H-rated and higher rose 9.1 percent last year to 92 million units, a volume that represents 44 percent of all aftermarket shipments, up from 41 percent in 2016.
Viewed more closely, aftermarket shipments of H-rated tires rose 11.7 percent to 48.8 million units; V-rated tires rose 8.4 percent to 25.8 million units; and Z-rated were up 3.6 percent to 17.4 million units.
Imports of tires with 17 inch and higher rim diameters jumped 13 percent last year over 2016 to 46 million units, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data.
The import data don't show speed ratings, so tires of this size don't necessarily correspond to the H-rated and above category, but a generalized comparison can be drawn, thus it can be shown that imports represent roughly half of the peformance tire category.
The OE share of performance tires jumped five points to 55.8 percent, the USTMA data reveal, even though shipments to OE customers actually slipped 4.1 percent to 25.2 million units.
The share rose because overall shipments of OE passenger tires to North American light vehicle producers fell even more, 6.9 percent, reflecting a drop in prouduction in 2017 in North America of cars, SUVs, light trucks, etc. to 17.2 million units.
The shift at OE is also reflected in the breakdown of OE tire sizes, where the 10 most popular sizes are now all 17-, 18- or 20-inch rim diameter sizes, including two—235/60R18 and 245/60R18—that are new to the top 10.
Another form of performance tire—winter/traction tires—didn't fare so well, the USTMA data show.
Shipments of designated winter tires slid for a second straight year—by about 36 percent—and accounted for just 2.1 percent of all replacement car tire shipments last year.