WASHINGTON-Industry shipments of passenger and light truck tires reached record highs in 1994 and are expected to show continued growth next year, according to the Tire Market Analysis Committee of the Rubber Manufacturers Association. The committee, made up of forecasters employed by more than 20 tire makers active in the U.S. marketplace, met in Washington during November to develop a consensus prediction of U.S. tire shipments for 1994 and '95.
RMA President Thomas E. Cole, detailing the committee's forecast in a Dec. 19 news release, said 1994 passenger tire shipments reached record highs of:
58.2 million original equipment units-an increase of 1 percent over the previous record set in 1977; and
170 million replacement tires-about 3 percent higher than 1993's record.
Passenger tire shipments should remain strong in 1995, predicted the TMAC, which forecasts another record 59.2 million OE units and 172 million replacement tires for this year.
Nevertheless, the committee cautioned that passenger tire shipments cannot be expected to continue rising at this pace indefinitely. How fast motorists wear out their tires and general economic trends are just two of the unknown factors likely to influence long-term growth in passenger tire shipments, it pointed out.
Imports of passenger tires during the coming year aren't expected to change significantly from the 46 million units predicted for 1994, the TMAC said.
However, the committee expects a 5-percent increase in passenger tire exports during 1995-with such shipments expected to hit 21 million units from a record 20 million units last year.
The TMAC believes OE shipments of light truck tires last year topped 5.7 million units-an 18.8-percent increase over the previous record, set in 1988. However, OE shipments of light truck tires are expected to fall slightly during the coming year to 5.6 million units, the committee said.
Replacement light truck tires, meanwhile, also hit a new record of 25.6 million units during 1994-an increase of more than 10 percent over the industry's previous record of 22.7 million tires, established in 1990. But demand for these tires will level off in 1995, the committee predicted.
Meanwhile, exports of light truck tires during 1994 are believed to have reached a new record high of 3.5 million units compared with the previous record of 2.9 million in 1991. Such exports are expected to rise to 3.6 million units in 1995, the TMAC said.
Light truck tire imports rose to 5.3 million units in 1994 and should remain at that level during 1995, the committee predicted.
OE demand for larger truck tires in 1994 was up in virtually all categories compared with the previous year. Heavy truck tires posted the strongest gains, with shipments of 96,000 units compared with 72,000 in 1993, the committee said.
Medium truck tire shipments to the OE market grew at nearly the same pace in 1994, rising to 4.7 million units vs. 3.8 million the previous year.
OE shipments of wide-base and large off-the-road truck tires ran 5 percent above 1993 levels, but growth in these markets likely will taper off, and turn downward in some cases, the committee said.
Similar but smaller 1994 gains were forecast for most replacement truck tires-except for heavy-duty truck and large OTR tires which marked historic highs.