UK distributors losing grip on winter tyre market

We knew that was attracting a readership but neither realised quite how many, nor how high up the automotive chain our network of subscribers had stretched until we saw a headline zip through our feeds from WhatCar earlier today: UK faces winter tyre shortages.

Not two days after we warn about the dangers of having inappropriate winter tyres and the disruption it can cause to your day and that of roadside assistance organisations’ than WhatCar hammer home our message – is there any greater accolade? However, we shall gloat about our scoop no further and you’re not here to be told ‘Yah, boo sucks, told you so‘.

Other than our article, there are far greater outweighing factors that have affected the stockpiles of new tyres, or rather the lack thereof, and relate to issues stretching a lot further back than a few days. Much of the reason we are unable to supply to the increase in demand for high silica content tyres that are more flexible, hence create more traction in icy conditions, is to do with the simple economics outlined in yet another recently posted article. Underlining why the UK is yet to make the snow tyre a legal requirement, the article offers explanations relating to driving history and patterns of UK drivers in winter.

prior demand should not dictate future sales

However, the past is not the future; lessons are being learnt from recent harsh cold snaps, drivers being stranded in freezing conditions and the subsequent impact of rising van insurance premiums to cover callouts made. Of all instances requiring roadside assistance, combined results from the AA and RAC suggest that damaged or ineffectual tyres is the number one reason from December through February.

The UK market is changing, the relationships with the EU are freezing quicker than a Scot’s engine radiator without antifreeze and long term economic constraints mean that van drivers are looking to cut commercial costs at every opportunity. Protecting your no claims bonus through not claiming against your van insurance policy is a long-term cost saving that could quite feasibly outweigh the cost of winter tyres that could last for years if rationed to only used in the depths of winter, when needed most.

The reason we are in the tyre mire we are is quite simply UK distribution outlets have been let down by export suppliers. Due to the UK being a low user, their leverage in the marketplace is minimal; priority for supply has favoured countries like Italy and Germany who have always had a huge commercial and domestic market for the product.

The National Tyre Distributors Association have hinted that supplies of winter tyres into the UK have been as much as 25% short on the original order quantities. As corroboration of that statement, Kwik Fit are warning Fiesta drivers, and all users of 195-45-R16 tyres, to expect shortages specifically for that standard of winter tyre, with fresh stocks not arriving until well into the new year.

Let’s hope lessons are learnt further and the stock that doesn’t get used this winter provides the platform for sufficient stock to meet next winter’s demand; in the meantime, let’s see some investment in the UK, so that we can be self-reliant, as could be the case in many other sectors if our relationship with The Continent continues headlong into a political ice age.

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