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Tires 2022: Prices jump while shortage fears wane

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
This fall, rumors and speculations abounded about tires. The fear was that a tire shortage, spawned by supply chain issues, could create real problems for automotive and RV users. At the top of the year, it looks as if a tire shortage isn’t materializing, but watch as tire prices jump. It’s all happening right now.

Tire shortage?

The “tire shortage” fear was fomenting even before summer. “Tires are hard to come by right now; you’ve got higher prices and lower supplies,” Kevin Rohlwing, SVP of training for the Tire Industry Association (TIA), was quoted on fleetowner.com. “We can’t say it’s a shortage, but in certain sizes and certain styles, you’re not going to be able to get them.”

As time rolled on, fears seemed to quiet. But last August, the opening salvo was heard in the tire price-jumping game. On August 1, 2021, Yokohama inflated the price of their tires. The company said the increase was due to an “unprecedented increase in the cost of raw materials and the ongoing rise of operational costs necessitated the price adjustments.”

How about your favorite brand?

Here’s the sad march:

  • “Bridgestone Americas Inc. will increase prices of Bridgestone and Firestone-branded commercial tires on Feb. 1. The company says prices will increase by up to 14% on Bridgestone and Firestone truck and bus radial tires, off-the-road tires and ag products in the U.S. and Canada.” — moderntiredealer.com, December 20.
  • “Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp. will increase ‘dealer base’ prices on passenger, light truck and commercial truck tires up to 10% on Feb. 1.” — moderntiredealer.com, December 15.
  • “Giti Tire (USA) Ltd. will raise prices on all Giti-produced PLT and TBR tires sold in the U.S. by up to 10% starting in January 2022.” — tirereview.com, January 4.
  • “Michelin North America Inc., has announced price increases up to 12% on select Michelin, BFGoodrich and Uniroyal passenger and light truck replacement tires, up to 5% on motorcycle tires, and up to 16% on both on- and off-road commercial tire and retreads and service offers due to market dynamics. These increases will be effective Jan. 1, 2022, in the United States and Canada. These updated prices will come into effect for orders invoiced starting on Jan. 1, 2022, the company said.” — tirereview.com, December 28.
  • “Pirelli announced price increases in the United States for car and light truck tires. Taking effect Jan. 17, 2022, the increases will be up to 10%, varying by line and tire size.” — tirereview.com, January 3.

“Perfect storm”

Russ is so creative. (wink)

What’s behind it when tire prices jump? Supply chain issues get some blame, but there are many factors leading to a “perfect storm” for tire price increases. Going back to the root of the problem is the rubber tree. Try as they might otherwise, all tire manufacturers use some amount of natural rubber in their products. The majority of the world’s natural rubber supply hails from Asia.

But Asia has been bugged by a “pandemic” of sorts. The Pará rubber tree, the key tree for natural rubber, has been hard hit by a fungal leaf disease. Huge numbers of these rubber-producing trees have been hit by the fungus. It takes some seven years to get from seedling to mature tree, so replacing the infected trees won’t happen overnight.

And other factors adversely affecting rubber producers? Climate change, affecting the production of the trees. The COVID-19 pandemic, affecting labor to manage rubber tree plantations. Then add a shortage of shipping containers, and mix in port disruptions, and the problem of producing and supplying rubber to tire manufacturers has created a major problem.

On the other side of the equation is appetite. Vehicle buyers are shifting gears, heading away from small cars, instead aiming to buy SUVs and pickup trucks. The bigger the vehicle, the bigger the tire. It translates to more rubber required, per vehicle, to produce a full set of “shoes,” if you will. And as buyers perceive that the world is “coming out” of the global pandemic, sales of vehicles have significantly increased. It’s probably inevitable that prices jump for tire buyers.

Can anything help?

What’s to be done? Unless you need tires today and jump for a brand that hasn’t already seen a price increase, you’ll probably take the hit in your pocketbook. Still, extending the life of your tires as much as possible may help ease some of the pain when prices jump.

For RVers, there’s no magic formula that will make your tires “last longer,” in terms of the advised time limit for tire changes. If you have a towable RV, your tread will probably seem pretty good even when the tires are five years old. But the accepted advice across the tire industry is simple. Don’t chance driving on “aged out” tires. By the time five or six years roll around, even if the tread looks good, don’t (literally) bet your life on it. The chance of a devastating blowout is just too high. The same is likely true for your motorhome. Most RVers just don’t drive-off their tread before needing replacements.

Still, you can help to prevent the premature need for tires. Protect those expensive “rubber doughnuts” by putting tire covers over them when parked. This will reduce the chance of UV radiation from taking a toll on safety. And keep them inflated properly. Underinflated tires do wear out faster. But perhaps even more significant, low tires suck fuel in a hurry. You’ll spend less money at the pump if you keep your tires at the correct inflation rate.

Should you “hold out” on buying tires, pushing off the purchase until the last vestige of safety is gone? Will tire prices come down? At least one industry expert says the tire tea-leaf readings aren’t clear. He can’t foresee whether tire prices, like motor fuel, will come back down. Best to just put money aside now, and prepare to pay for the tire price jump.

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Vincee
8 days ago

Is there not a commodity out there that doesn’t have one excuse or another as an explanation of huge price increases? And please, can we not have to put up with the do all catch-all excuse “climate change”! I wish I could say I’m losing my hair because of it, but everyone would look at me and say that’s bull.

Now, raw material shortages, shipping delays, and shipping containers, labor, I can believe.. But just like the dollar store just raised their prices by 25% ($1.00 to $1.25) how does society adjust to these double-digit increases. My SSI went up 5.9%, but Uncle Sam raised Medicare 21%!

Chase McGovern
9 days ago

Simpletire.com

Bob M
9 days ago

Around the end of Nov my truck with 21,000 miles was appraised to trade. Tires are good for another 25,000 miles. Dealer noted to replace tires that didn’t need replacing. Around end of Oct I noticed two Michelin tires on my wife’s Cadillac XT5 were worn down with only around 21,000 miles. So between dealers replacing tires that don’t need replacing and tire manufactures making tires with poor quality materials. We are using up our resources creating shortages and raising prices.

Ron
9 days ago

Our 2016 gas MH tires are just over 6 yrs old, I cover them even if we are only staying 3 days, so I wanted to just replace the front 2. I went to only 2 tire dealers with in 40 miles of home ( RV dealers here don’t do tires), both said my Michelin’s were not in production. Called Tire Rack, they had some with tire date 3621, not bad but I wanted newer, but I wanted tires before our next long trip, so they are shipping them for free, $550 ea plus tax. Now I will have to go to 1 of those 2 tire dealers to install them.