Sales of Euro-style vans exceeded total sales of traditional body-on-frame vans for the first time in 2015. This is an important milestone in the evolution of the fleet van market, but the rapid market share expansion of Euro-style vans will have a near-term impact on replacement tire availability, which, in turn, will exert upward pressure on pricing.
“We expect fleets that moved to new-generation cargo vans will see higher tire prices driven by the new Euro-metric and unique OEM tire sizes,” said Steve Jastrow, strategic consulting manager for Element Financial Corp. “More Euro-metric-size tires, which have no ‘P’ or ‘LT’ load range prefix, are being introduced. Replacing these tires can be a challenge due to limited availability and typically results in significantly higher prices. We expect these challenges to increase as more vehicle odometers approach the 30,000- to 40,000-mile range and replacement tires are needed.”
Other fleet subject-matter experts also agree that the shift to Euro-style vans will put upward pressure on replacement tire prices because of the unique size of these tires. Initially, this may result in limited availability of these replacement tire sizes. When new OE tires are introduced, there tends to be a lag in how quickly the replacement tire industry can gear up to manufacture comparable-sized tires.
“The newer vehicles currently entering the market, such as the Transit and the Nissan NV200, have a new tire size that is carried by very few manufacturers and in very few lines. These tires are expensive and very hard to find. Dealers are finding it hard to keep them in stock,” said David Jankiewicz, director, maintenance and repair management for LeasePlan USA.
P-Metric, LT-Metric, and Euro-Metric Tire Differences
P-metric sized tires are designated with a “P” at the beginning of the tire size and were introduced in the U.S. in the late 1970s. They are installed on vehicles primarily used to carry passengers.
A P-metric’s load capacity is based on an engineering formula, which takes into account a tire’s physical size (the volume of space inside the tire) and the amount of recommended air pressure. Since all P-metric sizes are based on a formula for load, vehicle manufacturers can design new vehicles around either existing or new P-metric tire sizes. The same is true for LT-metric tires designed for light trucks.
On the other hand, Euro-metric sized tires do not have the “P” or “LT” prefix designation in tire sizes. Using Euro-metric dimensions to reflect a tire’s width began in Europe in the late 1960s. Euro-metric tire sizes have been added over time based on the load and dimensional requirements of new vehicles, the tire manufacturers designed many new tire sizes, and load capacities around the needs of new vehicles.
Dimensionally, some P-metric and LT-metric tire sizes are identical and interchangeable to Euro-metric tires, with the exception of their load-carrying capacity calculations and inflation pressure tables. The variance in load-carrying capacity between P- or LT-metric tires and their Euro-metric counterparts stem from the way in which load-carrying capacity is calculated. Vehicles that come standard with P-metric or LT-metric tires have been designed to align with the P- or LT-metric load-carrying capacity formula.
On the other hand, Euro-metric tire sizes and their load-carrying capacities have been designed over time based on the specific needs of new vehicles. Due to the variation in calculation methods, there is a possibility that two tires of the same size that feature the same load index could have two different load-carrying capacities.
Do Not Mix and Match Tires
Since P-metric and LT-metric tires use different load and inflation formulas, as a result, a Euro-metric tire has a slightly greater load index and higher load-carrying capacity reserve than its P-metric or LT-metric counterpart. Overall, the best practice is to replace tires with the same size designation and load index that originally came with the vehicle. Avoid mixing P-metric and Euro-metric tires on a vehicle since it could compromise handling, braking, and cornering performance. Similarly, some Euro-style vans are equipped with LT-size OE tires. The differences in load capacity and required inflation pressure prohibits mixing LT-metric tires with Euro- or P-metric tires.
Finally, the near-term impact of higher tire prices should mitigate as production ramps up for Euro-metric replacement tires, increasing aftermarket availability.
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