Sales of tyres in Ireland have bounced back in 2021, following a predictably dire 2020 (we've all been there...) which saw sales fall by 12 per cent overall.
More van tyres being sold
The rebound in tyre sales this year has been largely attributed to the greater use of vans, doubtless serving all those click-and-deliver orders now that people are more accustomed to shopping from home.
Speaking at a Continental Tyres media briefing, Tom Dennigan of Continental Tyres Ireland said: "Taking pre-Covid 2019 tyre sales as our baseline, during 2020, the sector saw a drop to 88 percent of the 2019 figure - that is an overall 12 percent drop across all tyre classes including car, SUV and van. Car and SUV tyre sales each saw a reduction of 13 and 14 percent respectively while van tyres were only slightly reduced during 2020 with 95 percent of the 2019 figure.
"We can attribute the drop in sales of tyres for cars, SUVs and vans to the 'lockdown effect' of 2020 when many vehicles were parked up for extended periods. The more modest drop in the van tyre segment highlights the increased use of vans during those lockdowns, as online shopping skyrocketed for many consumers leading to increased use of vans for home deliveries. The increased use of vans is responsible for the 2021 rebound in the van tyre segment where sales went up by 124 percent versus the 2019 figure. Car and SUV tyres also saw a more modest recovery in 2021 with the segments registering sales of 94 percent and 102 percent respectively versus the 2019 figures".
Irish buyers going for all-season tyres
One of the biggest growth areas has been in all-season tyres - with harsher winters in recent years, it seems Irish buyers are cottoning on to the value of having tyres that can deal with the occasional sudden cold snap. "All-season tyres, tyres that have been developed to provide optimum performance in a temperate climate such as we have in Ireland where we rarely see the levels of extreme cold or hot weather as experienced in continental Europe, have seen significant increases in sales since 2019. In the all-season car tyre segment, the 2020 sales levels were similar to the 2019 figures, but in 2021, sales of all-season tyres for cars jumped by a massive 158 percent" said Denigan.
But van tyre sales have been the undoubted stars of 2021 thus far. "In the van segment, the year-on-year growth of all-season tyres is much more pronounced with increases of 374 percent for 2020 and 448 percent in 2021. A significant part of the all-season tyre growth for the van sector is driven by the emergency services, which, over the period, converted to all-season tyres. However, it is clear that, in general, motorists and van fleet managers in Ireland are increasingly realising that all-season tyres are a good option for our mild climate" said Denigan.
In terms of tyre size, Dennigan highlighted that 205/55 R16 remains the most popular tyre size in the Irish market - examples of vehicles using this size tyre include the Audi A3, Ford Focus and VW Golf - all popular vehicles in Ireland. When looking at rim size, we see the upward trajectory of larger tyre sizes coming into play. Looking at the situation from 2013 when the top ten sizes here were dominated by 14-inch, 15-inch and 16-inch rims, the figures for this year show that 15-inch and 16-inch rims are still very common, taking seven of the top ten positions for 2021. However, the continued growth in rim size is evident in this year's figures with two 17-inch and one 18-inch rim size in the top 10, whereas in 2013, 16-inch was the largest tyre size in the top 10 for that year.
Growth in high-performance tyre market
It seems that Irish buyers, as well as buying bigger tyres, are also buying more high-performance tyres - possibly a legacy of the more torque-heavy diesel models that were so popular from 2008 to 2018. Taking 2015 as the baseline for the share of ultra-high performance (UHP) models in the new tyre market in Ireland, in the intervening six years, the UHP sales here have grown by an average of 14 percent each year over the 2015 figure, with the pandemic years of 2019 and 2020 showing a 33 percent and 24 percent increase for each year respectively. Continental's recently launched, SportContact 7 tyre is an UHP product that was developed to be the best summer tyre for every performance vehicle configuration and weight. For such performance vehicles, Continental claims that the SportContact 7 delivers significantly improved dry and wet performance on public roads and on the track; as well as outstanding mileage and improved fuel efficiency.