The last seventy years have been characterized by rising population levels, urbanization and increasing disposable income. Greater consumer purchasing power has fuelled demand for cars, which in turn has driven steady growth in the global tire market. That’s the past and present, but what does the future look like?
Environmental concerns are becoming a more important factor in buying decisions. Consumer demands for lower emission levels are leading automotive OEMs to put pressure on tire manufacturers to build products with minimal friction and higher fuel efficiency. Carbon footprint reduction, recyclability and sustainability are becoming ever more important in manufacturing and supply chains across all industry sectors.
One result of this trend is the growth in the market for electric cars. With electric vehicles being heavier than those with conventional engines, tire manufacturers have had to design different tires for them. Greater mass and stronger braking/acceleration forces promote rapid tire wear in electric cars. However, a more powerful profile results in a higher noise level – which, of course, appears even louder due to the almost silent electric motors – so tire producers have to strike a fine balance in their design.
Another disruptive trend is the rise of autonomous vehicles. Rigorous testing is being carried out worldwide and recent research predicts that there will be around 5 million autonomous vehicles on the road by 2026, with 30 million more by 2030. With autonomous driving meaning that there is no longer a reliance on the driver’s instinct and experience, ‘smart’ tires will play a key role in ensuring safety. The integration of technology into tires – using sensors to collect, analyze and transmit data between the vehicle and the world outside – will be critical for established players to differentiate their products.
Growing concern for the environment and changing lifestyle patterns – especially the rise in working from home – may drive another potentially disruptive trend over the coming years: car sharing. Facilitated by apps that enable real-time administration and cost calculation, car sharing could have a huge impact on the demand for tires in the next decade.
Author Jari-Pekka Ylipaino