AKRON — Americans love their pickup trucks, and they love personalization. These two factors have spurred a surge in light truck tire sales, even in the midst of economic uncertainty.
Tire makers are addressing this trend by producing larger tires that sport aggressive tread for off-highway, as well as on-highway, driving.
"The light truck tire market overall is very strong and continues to grow. It's growing right along with vehicle truck sales. They keep growing. People love their trucks and keep buying," Brad Robison, senior product manager at Bridgestone Americas Inc., said.
"In terms of the off-road enthusiast, you know trucks are their new toys or ways to kind of express what you want to do with your vehicle," he said.
"For a lot enthusiasts and hobbyists, that's where you're starting to get into replacing your OE tires with even bigger, taller tires, especially on trucks where you can see most of the tire. ... The enthusiast trend is kind of growing in that space, causing us to see these tires get bigger," Robison said.
"Currently, passenger tire sales have fallen in numbers, and we have seen a continuous increase of sales in SUV/LT tires. Following this trend, we predict a decrease of passenger tire sales over the next five to 10 years," said Rob Williams, senior vice president, North America sales, at Hankook Tire America Corp.
"We've been investing in this (light truck) category for awhile and will do so in the future," Bridgestone's Robison said, noting that about a third of its tire sales are all-terrain (AT), max-terrain (MT) and rugged-terrain (RT) tires, as well as on-highway light truck tires, comparable with the industry average.
Giti Tire USA, meanwhile, is more heavily into passenger and CUV sizing for OE and replacement passenger, light truck and light truck/commercial, according to David Shelton, director of industry relations at Giti Tire.
"We've expanded our LT/commercial over the past several years and continue to grow in LT and flotation sizes, AT, HT and continue to do so," he said, adding "We fit with the market, not the niche, sizing."