WASHINGTON—U.S. replacement tire shipments, which achieved records in three key categories in 1998, should grow at the same or greater rate this year, according to the Tire Market Analysis Committee (TMAC) of the Rubber Manufacturers Association. The group also forecast continued growth over the next five years, through 2004, in these same categories: passenger, light truck, and medium- and wide-base truck tires.
In the passenger tire category, replacement shipments topped 185.5 million last year, an increase of 3.4 percent over the previous record, set in 1997. By 2004, the TMAC expects them to hit 199 million, an increase of 7.3 percent.
Within that category, shipments of H-, V- and Z-speed-rated tires accounted for 19.4 million units last year, with other performance-rated tires making up another 56 million units. Combined, these two subcategories represented 40.6 percent of total replacement passenger tire shipments.
These performance subcategories will grow at a much faster rate than overall passenger tire shipments, the TMAC predicted. H-, V- and Z-rated tires will surge by more than 50 percent to about 30 million units in 2004, the committee forecast, while other performance-rated tires will climb 16 percent to 65 million units.
In 2004, these two subcategories should increase their combined share of replacement passenger tire shipments to 47.7 percent.
Another passenger tire subcategory consists of those P-metric tires that are specifically designed for use on light trucks (with a more rugged appearance and tread design than typical passenger tires). Aftermarket shipments in that segment advanced 13.3 percent last year to 14.5 million units and are expected to swell some 60 percent to around 23 million units in 2004, according to the TMAC.
Shipments of light truck tires—whether true light truck tires (with the ``LT'' designation on the sidewall) or P-metric light truck tires—will be spurred by an increase in sales of light trucks, the TMAC said.
It predicted that sales of pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles will exceed sales of passenger cars before 2001.
Replacement light truck tire shipments, which grew 8 percent last year to a record 31.3 million units, will jump another 26 percent by 2004, to 39.5 million units, the TMAC forecast.
The combined size of the LT and P-metric LT replacement tire market—nearly 46 million units in 1998—should swell 37 percent to 63 million units by 2004, the committee said.
In the medium and wide-base truck tire category, replacement shipments rose 7.7 percent last year to a record 13.7 million units. The TMAC said it expects shipments in this category to climb another 12 percent by 2004, to more than 15 million units.
The group pointed out one factor that could significantly alter its forecasts: the disparity in economic growth between the U.S. and other global economies. If the U.S. dollar remains strong and Asian economies remain relatively weak, the U.S. could see an increase in tire imports that might eventually undercut the market share of domestic U.S. manufacturers.
The TMAC's forecasts represent the consensus view of the committee members, who include professional tire market analysts representing major U.S. tire makers that account for more than 90 percent of all U.S. tire shipments.