A growing market
Higher all-seasons tire sales are dictated by choices made by motorists who are increasingly opting for a compromise that reconciles practical needs, unpredictable weather patterns and economic advantages.
As it often happens, when two parties fight a third one gains the upper hand. As the “battle” between summer and winter product started raging, All Season tires took the lion share in the market. Clearly a compromise, but one capable of reconciling practical and economic needs, since many end customer cannot always afford, especially in times of crisis, two sets of tires and two replacements every year besides storage. Sure, this means forfeiting maximum performance, but this solution responds more adequately to increasingly unpredictable weather conditions. Snowfall or heavy hail can come at any time and suddenly change the grip of the road surface.
"Milder and unusually dry winters have increased the popularity of 4 season tires, especially among motorists who do not use the car for professional use," says Marco Princigalli, sales director of Yokohama Italy. "While the Italian aftermarket is giving signs of a visible recession in the number of tire replacements, All Season products are growing exponentially”.
In terms of sales to end customers, the results are there for all to see. "The All Season tire phenomenon is now an established trend in Italy," confirmed Pirelli, "and the segment, which continues to grow at double digit figures on a monthly basis, will in fact account for almost a quarter of the total domestic market by the end of the year”.
Alessandro De Martino, CEO of Continental Italia, is of the same opinion and said "following the strategy of a number of players in the market, All Seasons are viewed as a major factor in flattening the seasonality and are therefore consistently offered to end users, who started to appreciate a product that greatly simplifies those tedious trips to the local tire dealer for a seasonal replacement. In general, while in the past few years we have seen an erosion of Summer sales, in a phase of greater maturity of the All Season product we are also beginning to see a significant impact on the sale of Winter products too".
Not exclusively an Italian phenomenon, but one that is taking a greater foothold on the European scene, as Alfio Famà, marketing director B2C of Michelin Italia, points out. "As in recent years, the particularly unpredictable weather conditions in 2019 favoured multipurpose products and rewarded the All Season market segment, with a 15.9% growth recorded in the ETRMA (European Tire & Rubber Manufacturers' Association) market, with estimates pointing to a double digit growth in 2020".
However, it would be wrong to view All-Season tires as an exclusively economic solution. "Despite a significant increase in the Budget segment, All-Seasons products continue to be a prerogative of Premium brands, which account for over 50% of total sales," says Elena Versari, Goodyear Dunlop Italy consumer GM sales.
Furthermore, and this is perhaps true for a large proportion of motorists, some travel short distances and not necessarily for demanding jobs, which means that having two sets of tires is too expensive. However, things look better if one considers the increasingly important rental market which, as De Martino points out, considers the All Seasons option as an "interesting product for short-term rental".
The growing interest towards All-Season tires throughout Europe, therefore, didn’t just develop by chance, but it is based on very concrete facts, concrete enough to push all major manufacturers into engaging in their development so as not to find themselves caught off-guard and outplayed by so-called budget brands that, by definition, are the first choice of those who own medium and compact cars and do not seek maximum performance.
So what can we expect in the near future? Bridgestone has clear ideas about this. "According to our internal forecasts, the segment will continue to grow over the next few years," says Lorenzo Piccinotti, marketing & network operations manager at Bridgestone EMIA South Region. "The All Season offer is driven by end users who are increasingly focused on optimising costs and time, and consider this market segment a concrete answer to their needs without neglecting safety in all conditions”.
What manufacturers propose
All Season tires have come a long way since Goodyear introduced its All-Weather, the first tire of its kind, back in 1927. Today, each customer is faced with an increasingly wide and up-to-date offer from all leading manufacturers around the world.
The Bridgestone Group, for example, responds to the needs of the end user, offering a new and expanding range for both the premium segment, with Bridgestone Weather Control A005 and the mid segment, with Firestone Multiseason GEN02. AllSeason Contact, on the other hand, is the latest Continental offer in this market segment, defined as "a trusted companion". Developed mainly for low-mileage cars circulating in urban areas and in temperate climate environments, it stands out, among other things, for a special adaptive compound designed specifically for this tire. A highly flexible compound that makes the tire able to guarantee excellent performance on snow-clad and wet roads during the winter season.
For Goodyear, 2020 marks a pivotal year in this segment, following the launch of the third generation of Vector 4Seasons. Gen-3 will see its performance on dry roads greatly improved thanks to a new compound, and on wet surfaces throughout the life of the tire thanks to a cutting-edge design that maintains a balanced tread pattern as the tread wears away.
Thanks to the technological efforts made, Pirelli's market coverage in this sector continues to grow, especially on top of the range SUV/CUV and cars, reaching a coverage of over 90% of the market for 18" wheels and above, as well as 85% of the total range. On the All Season front, an expansion of the range with Seal-Inside technology has also been planned for the first few months of 2020, thus ensuring Pirelli's key concept of Total Mobility with over 15 new products being introduced in the All Season range.
Michelin has recently added to its CrossClimate+ and CrossClimate SUV ranges, dedicated to cars and SUVs, the Agilis CrossClimate version for light transport. The success of the CrossClimate range is due not only to the traditional high mileage durability, a trademark of Michelin products, but also to its peculiarity of being an All Season with excellent summer performance that maintains a high level of performance down to the last millimetre of useful tread.
Developed for compact cars, saloons and SUVs, the BluEarth-4S AW21 has been designed and developed by Yokohama with a new tread that offers the best balance between all areas of its tread to ensure grip through corners and high-speed driving. The use of several advanced technologies, such as divergent V-grooves and narrow-cross grooves, offers superior performance on wet surfaces. The silica-based polymeric compound, in particular, improves its performance on wet roads.