AKRON—The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many things, including consumer buying and driving behaviors, according to researchers.
After taking a deep dive in early 2020 during the height of the pandemic, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) have rebounded toward 2019 levels, but how and when those miles are driven has changed.
As vehicle owners rack up the miles, tire replacement is rising, despite higher prices over the past year.
Tire makers and marketers implemented a series of price hikes over the past year and into 2022, citing supply-chain disruptions and rising raw-materials costs as factors impacting their production costs.
Higher retail prices, however, don't seem to have deterred consumers from buying tires.
"The tire industry, like many others, is experiencing the effects of a shift in overall consumer behavior as it relates to pricing and demand," Nathan Shipley, automotive industry analyst for NPD Group L.P., said.
"Driving behavior has changed over the past two years but the needs are still there. Consumers are currently focused on getting what they want, while they can, with what is available to them at retail stores."
Despite elevated prices and altered driving behaviors, unit demand for tires nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2021, according to NPD.