WASHINGTON—Record numbers of passenger and light truck tires were shipped to the U.S. replacement market in 1996, according to year-end data published by the Rubber Manufacturers Association. These shipments should continue to grow in 1997, though at a much slower rate, the RMA's Tire Market Analysis Committee (TMAC) predicted.
Last year, U.S. shipments of replacement passenger tires climbed 5.1 percent from 1995 levels to an all-time high of 175.3 million units—3.1-percent greater than the previous record of 170 million units shipped in 1994.
For light truck tires, replacement shipments shot to 27.6 million units, 8.1 percent more than the 25.5 million shipped in 1995, the previous record.
In Canada, aftermarket shipments of passenger tires by members of the Rubber Association of Canada rose 2.2 percent to 13 million units. The tire maker members of the RAC include the Canadian units of the world's 11 largest tire manufacturers, as well as Finland's Nokian Tyres Ltd.
Canadian shipments of truck/bus tires by RAC members slipped 0.5 percent to 3.17 million units.
In the U.S., shipments of medium and wide-base truck tires slid 1.8 percent last year to 11.7 million units.
1997 RMA consensus forecast
Given that the U.S. economy is growing at an annual rate of less than 3 percent, the TMAC forecast slower rates of growth for replacement passenger and light truck tire shipments in 1997.
U.S. passenger shipments will grow just under 1 percent to 177 million tires, the group projected, while light truck will reach 28 million units, an increase of 1.4 percent.
Shipments of replacement medium/wide-base truck tires will grow at a rate between 0.5 and 1 percent, the TMAC predicted.
At 57.1 million units, 1996 shipments of passenger tires to vehicle manufacturers were virtually unchanged from 1995 levels.
However, the TMAC expects this segment to surge 5.6 percent this year to 60.3 million units, spurred largely by increased production of light trucks fitted with passenger tires as original equipment.
The trend also is expected to continue driving down demand for OE light truck tires. Shipments in this category skidded 1.7 percent last year to 5.8 million units, and are projected to stop at 5.7 million units this year, according to the TMAC.
OE shipments of medium and wide-base truck tires plunged 21.3 percent in 1996 to 4.27 million units. However, the TMAC said gradual increases in truck and trailer production should support growth of 1 to 2 percent per year through the turn of the century.