GREENVILLE, S.C.—At Michelin North America Inc., the last decade has provided significant growth in the ultra-high-performance tire market.
And the company expects more of the same in the future.
Despite a dip in this segment in 2020 due to the impacts of COVID-19, the Greenville-based tire maker sees the trend of increasing UHP fitments on new vehicles continuing to help fuel higher overall demand.
"The UHP market, which we define as tires with a Z-speed rating (W or above), has doubled in the past 10 years. The growth has been steady year over year, with the exception of a dip in 2020 due to COVID, and we expect this growth trend to continue into the foreseeable future," said Steve Calder, technical marketing manager for Michelin North America.
"A large part of the UHP market growth has been driven by an increasing number of OE fitments coming from the factory with Z- rated tires. While the trend of vehicles in the U.S. continues to shift away from passenger cars to CUV/SUVs, many of these new platforms are coming with Z-rated OE tires, so the shift isn't expected to alter the trend of the overall UHP market," he said in an email exchange.
UHP, despite being a relatively small segment of overall sales in the tire industry, is a key market for Michelin.
"UHP is an important market for Michelin and we target to have the best UHP summer and UHP all-season offerings available to cover the majority of sporty cars and crossovers on the road today," Calder said.
One particular change in mobility is seen by Michelin as having the potential to drive demand for UHP tires higher as time goes on.
"As the trend to electrification continues, many vehicle manufacturers are positioning electrification as a means to increase overall vehicle performance while minimizing (an) environmental footprint. Correspondingly, these vehicles are frequently fitted with UHP tires from the factory. Thus, electrification has the potential to maintain or even increase the growing market trend toward UHP tires," Calder said.
While UHP certainly felt the sting of COVID-19, the hit was not as severe as the overall tire business, he said.
"In general, the UHP segment was less impacted than the tire market overall. Within the UHP market, premium fitments like Corvette or Porsche were even less impacted and quick to recover to exceed pre-COVID levels," he said.
Overall, COVID-19 has had an impact on mobility, Calder added. But many people are returning to old habits like taking Sunday drives. "UHP drivers love their cars more than ever," he said.