Canadian Tire gets an edge on winter tire market

by Kelly Taylor  . Jan 26 2018
Canadian TireCanadian Tire’s MotoMaster Winter Edge tires are the company’s first new tire design in more than a decade.

Canadian Tire

Canadian Tire’s MotoMaster Winter Edge tires are the company’s first new tire design in more than a decade.

You know Canadian Tire still sells, of all things, tires, right?

It’s sometimes easy to forget when the company’s current pitchman — Canadian actor Paul Constable — is hawking Christmas trees, electric grills, power tools and electric fireplaces.

Rubber has always been a big part of the company’s business since it began life in 1922 as the Hamilton Tire and Garage Ltd. in Toronto.

But as the chain diversified into housewares, tools and sporting goods, the company became the go-to for a bunch of products that had nothing to do with tires.

As competitors — KAL Tire, OK Tire, Fountain Tire and so on — started marketing more heavily, a casual observer could be forgiven for thinking Canadian Tire was just a name.

Perhaps in reaction to that, perhaps in reaction to the growth of the winter tire industry in Canada and perhaps just because the business plan made sense, Canadian Tire in 2017 launched its own set of winter tires, the MotoMaster Winter Edge.

Developed in collaboration with, and manufactured by, Cooper Tires, Winter Edge immediately becomes a serious contender for the winter-tire dollar in Canada.

With multi-angle sipes, something Canadian Tire is calling SnowGroove technology and a saw-toothed centre rib, Winter Edge is more than a mere knockoff.

Natasha Gustajtis, Canadian Tire’s senior category business manager for tires and wheels, said the Winter Edge is part of the company’s launch of the MotoMaster brand of tires as a part of its heritage collection.

“We’re really proud of this tire, tested by 17 Canadians, earning the Tested for Life badge,” she said.

“It’s the first MotoMaster winter tire passenger launch in over 10 years, so we’re very excited about this.”

The tires do work very well, performing on par with the Bridgestone Blizzaks mounted on our family’s van.

Wheelspin on starts is dramatically reduced from the all-season tires mounted on a 2008 Chevrolet Impala, while cornering is sure-footed on snow, ice and slush. The difference driving to and from the tires’ installation was huge.

The multi-angle sipes work well in providing grip for turning, stopping and starting. The saw-toothed centre rib provides a somewhat quieter ride, yet does a good job grabbing loose snow and getting it out of the way.

It’s a good time for Canadian Tire to make a splash in the winter-tire market, according to the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada, which notes on average, 60 per cent of Canadian drivers ride on winter tires.

The numbers are contained in the 2017 Canadian Consumer Winter Tire Study, conducted by statistical research firm Leger.

The winter-tire market has grown by four per cent each year for five years, the association said.

The area with the highest use of winter tires outside of Quebec, where winter rubber is mandatory, is Atlantic Canada, where 83 per cent of drivers use winter tires. The lowest acceptance is in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where 48 per cent of drivers eschew all-season tires in winter.

The association credited marketing efforts by retailers, tire makers and governments to educate drivers about the improved traction in winter.

Leger said in its remarks on the study those who did not use winter tires said they believed all-season tires — which start to become hockey pucks at 7 C — provided sufficient traction.

“Despite increasing winter-tire usage, educating drivers about the safety benefits of winter tires remains critical to making our roads safer in winter,” said association president Glenn Maidment. “That four in 10 motorists outside Quebec are not using winter tires puts at risk everyone who drives in cold-weather conditions.”

The Winter Edge is available in most popular sizes and starts at a regular price of $119 per tire. To fit the test 2008 Impala, the 225 55R17 tires were on sale at $146.99. Regular price on that size is $195.99.

kelly.taylor@freepress.mb.ca