Capitalizing on the trend of eye-popping custom vehicles of urban off-road vehicle enthusiasts, Federal Tire introduced a new offering in the M/T and A/T space, the Xplora MTS – the MTS referring to an M/T summer or sport tire – designed for the urban custom light truck market.
The Xplora MTS has already received design awards from Red Dot, the international product design awarded by the Design-Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen in Essen, Germany. In addition, it has received design awards from Good Design, an industrial design program organized annually by the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design in cooperation with the European Centre for Architecture, Art, Design and Urban Studies. Beyond design awards, it has also performed well in third-party comparison testing on dry-lap times, wet-lap times and wet braking, according to the company.
Working with Federal on the tire launch is industry veteran Steve Hutchinson, who says the new Xplora MTS tire is completely unique and opens up a new product segment in the industry.
“This is a cross between an M/T type tire and a directional UHP, so it’s a very odd crossover hybrid type of tire,” Hutchinson told attendees attending the product launch event at the Portofino Hotel in Redondo Beach, California. “It is positioned to be for the city dweller. It’s not really an off-road tire…. Is it meant to replace an M/T? No, it is meant for the city dweller that has a huge desire for incredible styling and for the consumer that’s interested in having the ultimate look on their urban truck or their urban jeep. This is not meant for rock crawlers. It’s not meant for the heavy mud. It’s a beautiful tire, it’s a sexy tire and it’s meant for more of an urban type of application where styling is critical.”
Federal Tire Chairman Jamie Ma provided detail on the tire’s development. He said that when they started to explore the concept of an M/T-summer tire hybrid, they started with research indicating that many owners of off-road vehicles rarely take their light trucks and jeeps off the road at all. With that, Ma saw a need for a tire that looked rugged but with better performance on pavement in addition to better styling.
“When we started developing the concept, we did a statistical report. Of a lot of American truck drivers, most spend 70% of their time driving from home to work during the week, and normally on an asphalt road condition. It’s only once in a while that they go off-road. So we noticed the mud terrain [tires] that were designed for [off road], they would not be considered ideal for day-to-day use. So we’ve designed [the new Xplora MTS] based on that statistic.”
He said the market for customized light trucks and jeeps is growing, so having a quality, “sexy” tire can help dealers capitalize on the trends, achieving a more stylish look to complement the additional investment made to modify the vehicle.
Part of the tire’s visual appeal is its Transformer Optimus Prime-inspired tread. It features a V-shaped “body armor” design with wide directional grooves and linear shoulder blocks. A newly developed tread compound has been infused with silica for outstanding grip and durability. The design allows for quiet on-pavement performance in addition to strong wet and dry braking when tested against other leading M/T products. These combined innovations allow for improved steering stability, reduced aquaplaning on wet roads and better control on wet and dry pavement, including cut-and-chip resistance. But its engineering does not translate well to mud and trails.
“Again, this isn’t for people who are going heavy off road,” Hutchinson says. “I know that my own research into the light truck segment for the last 25 years has always said that people only go off road only 5% of the time, generally, in trucks that can go off-road. And that hasn’t changed much over the years.”
Hutchinson said that the Xplora MTS is designed for them –the consumer that wants a rugged, aggressive look. Sales should be targeted at individuals who are likely to have a lot of upgrades, like lift kits, light bars, sidebars, steps, bumpers, customer paint, etc. He and Ma both describe the new product as targeting the “urban cowboy” market – individuals with a strong desire for design but little desire to actually hit the trails.
Initial sizes include 20-, 22- and 24-in. rim diameters (35×12.50R20LT, 35×12.50R22LT, 37×12.50R22LT, 37×13.50R22LT, 40×15.50R22LT, 35×12.50R24LT, 37×13.50R24LT, 38×15.50R24LT, 40×15.50R24LT, 42×15.50R24LT) with 26-in. coming in Q4 2019 and additional OE replacement sizes of 17- and 18-in. (LT265/70R17 121/118Q 10PR; LT285/70R17 121/118Q 10PR; LT315/70R17 121/118Q 10PR; LT265/70R18 124/121Q 10PR; LT275/65R18 123/120Q 10PR; LT275/70R18 125/122Q 10PR) are also coming later this year.
Federal Tire is based in Taiwan. Overseas production began on the tires in January 2019 with initial orders arriving and available in the United States in March 2019. Pricing will be at a “significant savings” compared to competitive M/T offerings.