AKRON-The North American tire market is showing signs of slowing down this year, following a record-setting 1994. Whether 1995 can break the original equipment and replacement tire shipment records set last year is still up for debate. Analyst Harry Millis of Fundamental Research Inc. said 1995 will be a ``decent year,'' but overall shipments will stay flat.
Mr. Millis estimated this year's OE passenger shipments will reach about 58 million units, just slightly below 1994's 58.5 million units.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association was a bit more optimistic, forecasting OE shipments to reach 58.9 million by year-end. However, a spokesman for the RMA's Tire Market Analysis Committee said the organization currently is reviewing the tire shipment numbers it released in April, so there could be changes.
Both Mr. Millis and the RMA predicted replacement tire sales will land at 173 million units, an improvement of 1.8 percent from last year.
Goodyear officials see a much stronger 1995, with North American replacement tire sales leveling at 182 million this year, light truck growing to 27.7 million and medium truck reaching 13.8 million units.
For 1996, Goodyear predicts replacement passenger tire sales will hit 188 million.
The tire maker also sees more growth in OE. Passenger tire shipments for 1995 are forecasted to reach 67.5 million. The market is expected to be slightly higher next year, rising to 68.5 million units.
OE light truck is anticipated to grow to about 7 million this year, and remain relatively flat in 1996, Goodyear said.
Overall, Mr. Millis said total tire shipments are expected to rise about 3 percent to 286.3 million units in 1995 from 277.8 million. ``That might prove to be a little optimistic,'' he said.
Total car and truck production through July is up less than 1 percent, according to Automotive News. Meanwhile, total car and truck output in the U.S. is down 1.2 percent, with car production off 3.3 percent.
However, U.S. truck output has increased 1.4 percent through July, offering a bright spot for the tire industry. Mr. Millis estimated that OE shipments of light and medium truck tires will climb 15.1 percent to 12.2 million units by the end of the year. Replacement shipments should rise 4.4 percent to 40.5 million, he said.
The RMA's tire group said the OE light truck tire market should hit 6 million units in 1995, compared with 5.9 million last year. Replacement light truck tire shipments are expected to reach 27.7 million units, an increase of 5 percent from 1994.
A positive for the tire industry is price increases, which have held so far this year, Mr. Millis said. At the same time, raw material prices, which were rising rapidly, have remained stable. ``But I don't expect any major declines,'' Mr. Millis said.
Market share has changed little from 1994, Mr. Millis said. Goodyear remains on top with 30 percent of the replacement segment, 40 percent of the OE market and 32 percent overall.
Michelin North America takes second with 21 percent of the replacement market and the same share overall. Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. is next with 13 percent of the replacement segment and 18 percent of the OE market, for a total of 15 percent overall.
Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. has a greater replacement share-14 percent-but without any OE business, ends up with an 11-percent share of the total North American tire market.
Rounding out the list is Continental General Tire with 6 percent of both the replacement and total markets.