Cheap tyre imports the new normal – but tread lightly

It is anticipated that seven out of every 10 vehicles in South Africa will be fitted with lower-priced imported tyres in the next five years.

24 Kelston Tyres1

In 2021, these tyres, most of which are imported from China, already accounted for more than 50 per cent of local circulation, according to research by the South African Tyre Manufacturers Conference (SATMC).

Werner du Preez, General Manager of Eastern Cape-based Kelston Tyres, says South Africans have become extremely price-sensitive, which explains why these brands have gained the market traction they had.

Furthermore, Werner and industry colleagues expect a dramatic increase in the number of motorists who choose these tyres in the next few years. This, he says, may affect the supply of locally manufactured tyres.

While the quality of these imports has improved over the last decade, Werner says it should be remembered that they did not carry the same advantages as tyres produced in South Africa by the likes of Continental and Dunlop.

Kelston Tyres General Manager, Werner du Preez, expects price-sensitive South Africans to drive the market for cheap tyre imports in the next few years. Photo: Full Stop Communications

“The fact is we don’t know where exactly these tyres are being manufactured, whereas we know where our locally manufactured products come from,” he says.

“If you sustain damage to a locally produced tyre or a factory defect is detected, the matter can be addressed immediately with the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) concedrned.”

This is in contrast to an imported tyre where, in many cases, there isn’t a representative available to assist.

While the standard of cheaper alternatives has improved, the difference between these and local products still varies as local tyres are built for South African weather and road conditions, ensuring a longer lifespan. Imported tyres, on the other hand, are manufactured according to a standard, fixed design.

On average, he says, tyres manufactured locally were good for about 15 000 to 20 000 more kilometres than those from overseas. He did, however, emphasise that driving style and road conditions played a major role in any product’s longevity.

Werner, who oversees operations at Kelston’s BestDrive branch in Gqeberha, Tyremart in Kariega and Fastlane in Somerset East, says many customers in Nelson Mandela Bay, in particular, remain true to Continental, Goodyear, Dunlop and Bridgestone/Firestone.

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