Howie Fetzer built his business around a fact that remains a secret to most drivers. In many areas of the United States and Canada, all-season tires aren’t designed for use in all four seasons.
“Think of tires like shoes,” said Fetzer, who owns Fetzer Tire in Fairfield, Connecticut. “No matter how in shape you are, you’re only as safe as the contact you’re making with the ground.”
Fetzer regularly converses with drivers who, like many North Americans, aren’t aware that all-season tires become far less safe when temperatures fall below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius). That’s why he started selling a four-season alternative, the all-weather tire, more than two decades ago.
“An all-season tire is a sneaker,” Fetzer said. “An all-weather tire is a boot you can wear year-round; it’s comfortable like a sneaker and dressy enough to go out on a black-tie night.”
The all-weather tire’s biggest strength is versatility. Like an all-season tire, it’s meant for year-round driving. But like a winter tire, it’s certified for driving in snow and slush, marked with the three-peak mountain snowflake emblem that indicates it achieves performance standards on snowy roads.
“Because the tire is used in all seasons, it needs to have good handling and wet braking properties,” said Nokian Tyres Director of Products Steve Bourassa. “But you need to tweak the product a certain amount to be able to pass the three-peak mountain snowflake certification test. It needs to have the right winter capabilities in snowy and icy conditions to satisfy consumers and keep them safe.”
Nokian Tyres is on its fifth generation of the product segment after introducing the first all-weather passenger tire in 2000. According to Bourassa, the right all-weather user is someone who visits winter or sees winter visit them. Drivers who endure frequent snow and ice are still better off with a dedicated winter tire.
The Nokian Tyres WR G4 is the company’s current all-weather offering. Its asymmetrical tread pattern and soft compound help drivers thrive in rain, heat, snow and slush. Nokian Tyres makes the tire at its North American factory in Dayton, Tennessee.
“Somebody who has been using winter tires for a long time might not be the best all-weather consumer,” Bourassa said. “But the consumer who has been driving on all-season tires in winter is an excellent choice for all-weather – something that will give them better winter traction with minimal compromise compared to what they expect from all-season tires.”
Fetzer agrees, and so do his customers. He estimates that all-weather tires make up 85 to 90 percent of his shop’s tire sales, with most of those purchases coming from repeat customers or referrals.
“Anyone who bought the all-weather tire wasn’t taking it off, and the Nokian Tyres all-weather product was holding up as well or better than other manufacturers’ all-season tires,” said Fetzer. “People ask for the product because they’ve heard from friends or family that this is the tire they need on their vehicles.”