November 12, 1995 in Nation/World

Area Gets A Grip Snow Tire Sales Accelerate Here, Spin Out In Other Cold Areas

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tags:auto

For thousands of Inland Northwest drivers, this is the season of the switch.

Regular tires off, snow tires on.

In other parts of the country, even in cities with weather similar to Spokane’s, snow tires are losing popularity.

In these parts, snow tires are an obsession.

“This area is unique,” said Jack Stricklin, manager of a downtown Spokane Les Schwab Tire dealership.

“We’re actually selling more this year than a year ago,” said Stricklin.

Spokane motorists are among the most likely to buy snow tires in the country, according to people in the tire business.

One reason, they say, is the desire to be prepared for anything.

“People out here need that peace of mind,” knowing they can drive to any ski resort, even if they may never make the trip, said Stricklin.

Another factor is the widespread Pacific Northwest habit of driving first and thinking of public transportation only as a last resort.

“We see a lot of snow tires bought by the South Hill crowd who want to be sure they can get up and down those streets every day” instead of taking a bus, said Larry Lorimor, manager of the Ritchie-Riley-Shook Tire Co. just off Interstate 90.

Another factor in higher snow tire sales here is that drivers in other areas can get by with all-season radials because of intensive road plowing or sanding, said Stricklin.

“The roads here aren’t salted as much as in states like Illinois. That means our drivers can count on seeing icy roads more often.”

And - most obviously - this area has lots of people who travel off main roads looking for winter recreation, said Lorimor. “It’s all the skiers and snowmobilers. They want to feel safe wherever they go.”

Other parts of the country are seeing generally flat snow tire sales, according to Modern Tire Dealer magazine.

Tire industry observers say that’s due to the improved grip of all-season radial tires and the rising popularity of front-wheel-drive vehicles.

In 1993, about 6.4 million snow tires were bought in the United States, down from 9.9 million in 1989, according to the magazine.

By contrast, more than 140 million all-season tires were bought in 1993. That reflects a growing desire for a single, all-purpose tire instead of switching sets with the seasons.

But in Spokane, many drivers like Bob Drzymkowski have decided two sets of tires come with the territory.

“If we only drove in town, I’d probably be satisfied with all-season tires,” said Drzymkowski, who is a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Service.

Last winter, he bought a full set of snow tires for his front-wheel drive station wagon.

He figures the $300-plus spent on snow tires also extends the life of the all-season radials he drives the rest of the year.

Other drivers, like Karl Jensen of Post Falls, say they’ve taught themselves not to buy snow tires the moment the first heavy November snowfall hits.

“I stop and consider that for $150 or more I’ll have some new snow tires that I’ll need - really need - maybe 10 percent of the time. So I choose not to buy and promise I’ll drive real careful,” he said.

A recent market survey by Goodyear Tires shows that only the Northeastern states sell more snow tires than the Pacific Northwest.

John Taylor, a spokesman for Bridgestone Tires, said the two cities with the most snow tire sales are Denver and Minneapolis.

He said past sales figures have shown the Eastern Washington-North Idaho area is one of the stronger U.S. snow tire markets.

“I don’t know where the Spokane area falls, but I bet it has to be in the top 15 (in total sales),” Taylor said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: TIRE CHOICES: A SLIDING SCALE Winter drivers can switch to snow tires or stick with all-season radials. Here are some of their advantages and disadvantages.

Snow tire advantages They significantly improve traction in soft or deep snow. Equipped with metal studs, they offer a near-safe way of driving on icy surfaces. High-quality snow tires hold the road better in cold weather, not turning hard and brittle as other tires do.

Snow tire disadvantages Equipped with studs, they offer less traction than regular tires on wet pavement or road. They wear faster than other tires since they have deeper ruts and grooves. They’re noisier than all-purpose tires.

All-season tire advantages In normal conditions, they offer better gas mileage and traction on a variety of road surfaces. In general, they offer a more comfortable ride than snow tires.

All-season disadvantages In mud, slush or snow, they fail to grip as well as grooved snow tires. On high-performance cars, all-seasons don’t perform as well as tires designed specifically for that make and model. -Tom Sowa

This sidebar appeared with the story: TIRE CHOICES: A SLIDING SCALE Winter drivers can switch to snow tires or stick with all-season radials. Here are some of their advantages and disadvantages.

Snow tire advantages They significantly improve traction in soft or deep snow. Equipped with metal studs, they offer a near-safe way of driving on icy surfaces. High-quality snow tires hold the road better in cold weather, not turning hard and brittle as other tires do.

Snow tire disadvantages Equipped with studs, they offer less traction than regular tires on wet pavement or road. They wear faster than other tires since they have deeper ruts and grooves. They’re noisier than all-purpose tires.

All-season tire advantages In normal conditions, they offer better gas mileage and traction on a variety of road surfaces. In general, they offer a more comfortable ride than snow tires.

All-season disadvantages In mud, slush or snow, they fail to grip as well as grooved snow tires. On high-performance cars, all-seasons don’t perform as well as tires designed specifically for that make and model. -Tom Sowa


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