Important trends and technologies in all-season and winter tires are detailed in a market report recently released by Smithers. All-Season vs Winter Tires to 2024: A State-of-the-Art Report (Members of TRAC receive 15 per cent discount on all rubber industry market reports produced by Smithers) assesses the key technologies, materials and market drivers that enable tire performance in these two critical product segments, including regulatory, end-use (passenger cars and light trucks) and regional outlooks.
In terms of performance, several technologies account for the differences in all-season vs. winter tires, including materials, physical design, noise control technologies, processing, and modeling/simulation.
These technologies are ranked and detailed in the state-of-the-art report.
The large temperate climate regions of the US and China make all-season tires a standard for most areas except for the northern most regions. Even in many of those areas, and in parts of southern Canada, all-season tires have a high market share, and season-specific tires are less important. This is in contrast to regulatory requirements in Europe and in severe winter weather provinces in Canada where laws or incentives have led to the market bifurcation between summer tires and winter tires.
The role of fuel economy standards
The most important regulatory driver for all-season tires is the OEM vehicle fuel economy standards. These standards are increasing for vehicle OEMs in the EU, Japan, China and North America. Targets for the EU and Japan in the 2025 time frame are rising to over 60 mpg. Originally, US CAFE standards were scheduled to increase to 54.5 mpg in 2025 for passenger cars and 47 mpg as a fleet average, but the standards have been revised downward to 44 mpg and 47 mpg as a fleet average.
The US vehicle market is moving dramatically toward fewer fuel-efficient SUVs/light trucks, which now make up 55% of light duty vehicle sales, even though the US has fuel economy improvements to make to reach new targets. Because tires contribute directly to vehicle fuel economy, automakers will prioritize low-rolling resistance all-season tires in the US for fuel economy gains. In other regions, higher fuel economy standards will drive toward super low-rolling resistance tires.
Winter tire regulation
Europe leads in winter tire regulation, with Germany’s winter tire mandate leading the way. Other EU countries have their own regulations, but because travel among countries is prolific, most consumers use winter tires. In North America, the US does not have a winter tire regulation, and demand for winter tires is concentrated in the northern states. Only in Quebec, Canada, are strict winter tire requirements mandated.
In Asia, Japan’s winter liability laws have encouraged extensive winter tire adoption, while no regulation exists in China. Winter tires are designated by the Alpine snowflake 3MPSF and M+S designations. Winter tire performance is segmented between Nordic/high snow and ice conditions and more moderate Central European winter conditions.
All-weather tires are a new market development gaining interest in Europe; they have also been introduced in North America. They offer winter tire labelling with the Alpine snowflake 3MPSF and year-round performance. Market potential exists to expand the all-weather/four-season tire category in south Central Europe, the northern US, Japan and eventually China.
Climate patterns over the past 50 years have shown increasing temperatures. This is especially important for the future of winter tires and, to some extent, all-season tires. Increasing temperatures have been significant in northern climates, such as the northern US, where the average temperature has increased over 5° Fahrenheit, putting more cities in moderate winter vs. severe winter climates. The temperature change has generally led to decreases in snowfall and increases in rain; these trends are projected to accelerate over time.
The overall long-term trends mean winter tires will need to focus more on wet grip, grip on black ice films, and wet snow performance around freezing instead of heavy and dry snow with thick ice conditions at temperatures significantly below freezing.
A brochure on the All-Season vs Winter Tires to 2024: A State-of-the-Art Report is available at: https://www.smithers.com/services/market-reports/transportation/all-season-vs-winter-tires-to-2024.