WASHINGTON-Record tire shipments are expected for this year and next, with production surges in every category except heavy truck tire replacements, according to the Tire Market Analysis Committee of the Rubber Manufacturers Association. ``The general feeling in the industry is that things are going to keep banging away,'' said an RMA spokesman. ``(The tire companies) are very optimistic in the short term.''
TMAC, composed of forecasters from more than 20 major tire producers, credited a strong U.S. economy for paving the way.
Shipments of original equipment passenger tires smashed a 17-year-old record in 1994. They will just surpass that level this year, with shipments totaling 58.9 million units, an increase of 0.7 percent.
Passenger replacement tire shipments will jump 1.8 percent in 1995 to 173 million units, setting records for a third straight year.
``TMAC expects the passenger replacement market to continue growing through 1996 due to the increase in passenger tires in light truck applications, the growing popularity of performance and speed-rated tires, and a continuing rise in the miles driven by the American consumer,'' said Dominic Olivieri, vice president of management information services for the RMA.
Imported passenger tires continue to lead domestic exports, but the margin is shrinking, the TMAC said. Passenger imports should increase 0.9 percent this year to 46 million units. However, exports should rise 3.8 percent to 22 million units.
The future looks even brighter for exports, according to the forecast. After peaking in 1996, imports will decline annually through 2000. Exports should climb over the long term because of the recent value of the dollar.
If the greenback remains at current levels, look for more improvement in export shipments, the RMA committee said.
Light truck tire replacements should rise 5 percent this year, reaching 27.7 million units. OE shipments will reach 6 million units in 1995, a 1.7-percent climb.
Long term, light truck tire trends will follow the passenger tire market, with OE peaking in 1996, but replacement demand rising through 2000, according to the TMAC forecast.
Medium truck tire shipments to OE manufacturers in 1995 will hit 4.9 million units, up 2.1 percent over last year. Replacement shipments of medium truck tires will stay even with last year at 12.2 million units.
OE shipments of heavy truck tires this year will advance 10.6 percent, to 105,000 units. But heavy truck tire replacements will fall to 251,400 units, sagging 5.8 percent.
The drop reflects a downturn in heavy industry last year after growth the previous two years, the spokesman said.