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Growing complexity in tyres will raise costs

Aftersales departments will need to prepare for large diameter, technologically advanced tyres that will require greater technical skill to fit.

That’s a future predicted by analysts at Continental Tyres UK, based on recent trends, forthcoming legislation and continuing demand from carmakers for reduced weight.

Relationships with tyre suppliers will be key as workshops face a growing range of tyre sizes and specifications, with some even bespoke for particular cars or brands.

Customers will demand rapid availability of replacement tyres, because carmakers’ desire to cut unnecessary weight from vehicles will replace the spare or space-saver wheel with run-flat tyres or temporary repair sealants.

Significant changes have already occurred in the tyre market to cope with the increased power and weight of modern cars.

Peter Robb, Continental Tyres product manager, says: “Mirroring the proliferation of body styles in the car market, the tyre market has witnessed a proliferation of sizes. Instead of 200 sizes covering the market in 1997, there are now well over 300 different tyre sizes to choose from just for cars.”

He adds: “For the first time a 17in tyre has made it into the top 10 list and an 18in tyre is in the top 30 selling sizes of 2006. These trends look set to continue.”

Continental’s data shows The W/Z rated tyre, approved for speeds up to 187mph, has increased in volume terms by 600% since 1997. It now represents 21% of car tyre sales. Meanwhile S/T rated tyres, still the number one seller, now make up 28.2% of the market compared to 61.8% in 1997.

Growth in the use of tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) and run-flats may require more equipment and training for tyre fitters, particularly at independent businesses, which have no carmaker support.

Roger Sanders, Continental technical services director, says that as some TPMS use an electronic sensor fitted in the tyre valve, it’s no longer a case of simply removing an old tyre and fitting a new one.

“I can see a war developing between the franchised dealer and the independent installer,” Sanders adds.

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