WASHINGTON-U.S. imports and exports of both passenger and light truck tires reached new highs in 1994, according to Commerce Department data. Passenger tire imports jumped 17.2 percent from 1993's total to 48.2 million units, eclipsing the previous record of 44 million units set in 1989. And while the U.S. received more tires from most of its major trading partners, more than half the increased total was due to a 26-percent surge in shipments from Canada.
Similarly, a near trebling in shipments from Mexico was the major impetus for a 30.1-percent leap in imports of light truck tires, to 5.08 million units, and a second consecutive record year.
In fact, the increase from Mexico accounted for 65 percent of the total increase in LT imports.
But 1994's record foreign trade in tires was a two-way street, as U.S. exports of passenger and light truck tires-which have consistently trended up over the past decade-also reached new peaks.
U.S. exports of passenger tires grew 13.2 percent last year to 26.2 million units, up from the previous record of 23.2 million in 1993.
Much of this increase came in shipments to Canada and Japan, which grew by more than 1 million units each, while a fourfold increase in exports to Brazil brought that country onto the list of leading customers for the first time.
In the light truck tire category, U.S. exports climbed 14.4 percent to 3.91 million units, surpassing 1992's previous record of 3.47 million.
Though shipments to Canada declined slightly, this was more than offset by increases elsewhere, including a more than twofold increase in exports to Mexico and a 30.8 percent increase to Japan.
U.S. imports of truck and bus tires for highway use also rose last year, growing 13.2 percent to 5.28 million units, but fell short of the record 5.54 million units imported in 1990.
Major increases in shipments came from Japan, traditionally the leading source of these tires, up 29.5 percent, and from India, an increasingly important source, up 25.2 percent.
On the export side of the ledger, U.S. truck and bus tire shipments slid 10.7 percent last year from a record 1.7 million units in 1993, to 1.52 million.
Exports to Canada were flat, while those to Mexico fell 7.8 percent. Shipments to Japan, however, more than trebled.