Lets put the RV tire sales volume in perspective.
In 2014 there were about 310,000 trailer sales. A majority of these came with ST type tires and some with LT type tires. While I could not find specific figures I believe that almost all ST type tires were imports. I would estimate this represents almost 1 Mil. OE tire sales
In the motorhome market I think it's reasonable to assume that Class B and Class C basically use LT type tires. There are some exceptions such as the new Super-C class but these are not broken out in the data I could find. These two type RV would represent about 130,000 LT tire sales.
Class-A with about 22,000 units produced probably represent OE sales of about 140,000 total spread over maybe 15 sizes and Load Ranges. I am certain some sizes are relatively common and popular with a few that may represent 20,000 units in total annual sales and potentially a couple sizes with as few as 1,000 tires a year.
Clearly the low volume needs of some Class-A sizes is where the shortages in supply develop. I have never heard of anyone having problems finding a 16" LT tire which is probably 95+% of the Class B & C market spread over fewer than 5 to 8 size & Load Range variations.
Now to tire production:
First off a little background is in order. Tires are basically made in batches of a couple hundred to a few thousand tires, then the manufacturing plant switches to a different size or design. The only exception to this would be in OE passenger or Light Truck items that are scheduled for delivery to a major car or truck manufacturer. Lets look at the numbers so you will understand why this is.
In the US there were about 7.6 Mil cars and 8.7 Mil light trucks and 400 thousand heavy trucks produced in 2014. There were about 253 Mil. passenger tires plus 33.6 Mil. LT tires and 23.1 MIl medium and heavy truck tires sold at replacement and OE. These figures include import tires. So you can see that Class-B and C combined represent about 1.5% of the LT market an Class-A size tires represent less than 1% of truck tire production.
When tires are made they are cured in molds that cost $30,000 to $100,000+ with truck sizes being at the high end of costs. Companies also need cure presses as seen in this video on tire production
here to see the 7 min video on truck tire production and the press in operation.
The press holds the molds and the press system can cost upward of $1 Mil each. It also may take an hour to cure each tire so a balance needs to be reached between cost of molds, press utilization and production volume. I think you can understand that tire companies don't want a large number of very expensive molds or curing presses just sitting around and not being used so scheduling of production in the 7/24 curing room operations is very complex.
So why do people have problems finding a specific size from a specific manufacturer. It's simply a matter of scheduling, equipment utilization and priority. A tire company may have two molds in a specific size available and can produce about 40 tires a day in one press with two molds. They may schedule just one weeks production to build and cure 200 or so tires in a single batch than move to a different size/design tire. Don't forget your annual sales is only 1000 units a year and your customers do not want tires that are more than a few months old so you probably limit production to a single week every other month.
I would suggest that short supply of a specific size for an RV application is the result of the RV company's choice to go with a low volume tire and not a desire on the part of the tire company to make customers unhappy. From the comments I see it is always the tire company that gets blamed for a shortage in supply of a specific tire as no one ever seems to hold the RV company responsible for their selection of a hard to find size.
If you were a tire company where would you focus your production efforts on RV tire sales that represent less than 1% of your total sales and then on a specific size that is less than 5% of the RV market?
Maybe a better thing to do is to think about tire size availability when you make a RV buying decision. This can also have an impact on your ability to get a replacement if you get a puncture while on the road and your need to carry a spare which I mentioned in this video.
As I suggest in the video, have you bothered to check on the ease of finding replacement tires in the size and Load Range you want BEFORE you are in need?
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