WASHINGTON-U.S. imports of foreign-made tires grew last year in all three major tire categories for the first time since 1986, according to year-end data from the U.S. Commerce Department. At the same time, exports of U.S.-made tires continued the general upward trend of the past decade, though exports of light truck tires slipped slightly.
The U.S. imported 41.1 million passenger tires in 1993, a 2.4-percent increase in volume from 1992. Countries that significantly boosted shipments included: Japan, up 18.9 percent; Brazil, whose 16.9-percent increase vaulted it into the No. 3 position ahead of South Korea, whose shipments fell 16.2 percent; Chile, up 41.6 percent; and Taiwan, up 25.5 percent.
In the light truck tire category, imports shot up 27.9 percent to 3.91 million units, led by increases in shipments from the U.S.'s two partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Canadian exports jumped 70.3 percent, while Mexico's more than doubled. India moved into the top five in this category for the first time, as its exports rose 22.9 percent.
Imports of highway truck and bus tires climbed 11.4 percent for the year to 4.66 million units, paced by India, whose U.S.-bound exports leapt 33.6 percent.
On the export side of the ledger, with the exception of passenger tire shipments to Japan, the best customers for U.S. tires were Canada and Mexico. Together, these two countries accounted for nearly 60 percent of all U.S. tire exports-75 percent in the case of highway truck/bus tires.
U.S. exports of passenger tires grew 6.7 percent last year to 23.2 million units, as shipments to Canada rose 19.3 percent, and those to Mexico jumped 24.3 percent.
Shipments to the Middle East also climbed, with those to Saudi Arabia growing 13.8 percent, and to Kuwait, 24.4 percent. Shipments to the Far East-Japan, South Korea and Taiwan-fell.
Light truck tire exports slipped 1.6 percent for the year to 3.42 million units, though shipments to Saudi Arabia more than doubled, making it the No. 4 customer for these tires last year.
Exports of highway truck and bus tires soared 30.4 percent to 1.7 million units, largely on the strength of shipments to Mexico and Canada, which leapt 107.6 percent and 20.1 percent, respectively.