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UHP tyre: Tyre manufacturers wave the flagship

Domestic tyre manufacturers may not like producing low-cost radials anymore, but they love competing in the ultra-high performance tyre market. The same can be said of tyre marketers representing foreign tire makers, who know a profitable segment when they see it.

“The UHP market is extremely important to all tyre makers for a number of reasons,” says Rick Brennan, vice president of marketing for Kumho Tyre U.S.A. Inc. “The evolution of vehicles has made the traditional UHP defined tyre (V rated and above) a broad market tire.

“The Camry, Accord and Sonata, the largest selling cars in the U.S., all have at least one fitment that is ‘V’ speed rated. This makes higher speed-rated tires very common in today’s marketplace, and it increases the number of tires sold in this segment.

“As we look to the future, the number of tires coming OE with higher speed ratings will increase as small engine cars get higher horsepower due to advances in technology,” says Brennan. “The number of UHP defined tires in the marketplace using the traditional definition will continue to grow, making UHP a very important segment now and in the future.

“If we narrow the UHP definition to tyres with higher cornering power and greater dry and wet grip, the segment still remains very important as a source of profit and creation of new technology. People still savor their cars, and many enthusiasts still strive for the perfect winding road to put a grin on their face. This segment separates tires from a technology standpoint and lets us all show what we’ve got.”

In order to find out the importance of the UHP market to global tyre manufacturers, we just came out and asked them about it. We also wanted to get a feel for how special the United States market is, at least compared to the global market. Finally, we wondered what is new on the horizon.

For this article, our focus is on tire manufacturers. The private brand marketers with whom we talked are not UHP-oriented. Hercules Tyre & Rubber Co., for example, is much more broad-line minded and doesn’t have a true UHP tyre (to some, the Raptis WR1, which is W rated, might qualify).

UHP product sales are a very small percentage of Del-Nat Tire Corp.’s business as well, less than 2.5%.

“It is not a key segment of Del-Nat’s product portfolio,” says Randy Gaetz, vice president of sales and marketing. “We will continue to monitor the market, and if our stockholders want us to grow this segment for them we will.”

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