WASHINGTON—U.S. tire manufacturers will ship more original equipment tires this year for fitment on light trucks than on passenger cars, according to the latest forecast from the Rubber Manufacturers Association. The RMA's Tire Market Analysis Committee (TMAC) recently revised its 1999 U.S. tire shipments projections, raising its estimates in every category, compared with those it issued last December, when it indicated replacement tire shipments would surpass the record levels reached in 1998.
Though predicted to grow by almost 17 percent to more than 8 million units, shipments of OE light truck tires, those with LT designations, still fall far short of the 60 million passenger tires the TMAC forecast will be shipped to OE customers, representing a 5-percent increase from 1998 shipments.
However, nearly 45 percent of those OE passenger tires—26.8 million units—are projected to be P-metric tires for use on light trucks, putting total OE tire shipments for light trucks at about 34.9 million units, vs. 33.2 million for cars.
In terms of U.S. vehicle sales, though, cars continued to lead light trucks through the first eight months of this year, 6.01 million units vs. 5.51 million units, or about 52 percent to 48 percent, according to Automotive News, a sister publication of Tire Business.
New records are expected in the replacement market, where more passenger, light truck and medium/wide-base truck tires will be shipped than ever before, the TMAC said.
Fueled by a near-20-percent surge in shipments of P-metric tires for light trucks, replacement passenger tire shipments should reach approximately 192 million units this year, the TMAC said, an increase of about 3.5 percent from 1998 levels.
P-metric LT tire shipments are forecast to grow by 3 million units to approximately 17.5 million.
Shipments of ``true'' light truck tires—those with LT designations—will climb 6.9 percent to 33.5 million units, the TMAC predicted, putting aftermarket shipments of all tires intended for use on light trucks, both LT-designated and P-metric, at about 51 million units, an increase of nearly 11 percent.
The TMAC forecast shipments of replacement medium and wide-base truck tires to grow by 1 million units, or 7.6 percent, to 14.7 million, while OE shipments will jump 12 percent to 6.7 million units.
Looking ahead though 2001, the TMAC said it expects the U.S. economy to grow at a slower pace—about 2.5 percent annually in Gross Domestic Product—which should cool down the OE market and result in flat to slightly lower shipments.
The various segments of the replacement tire market, however, should continue to experience strong growth, the TMAC said.
It projected annual average growth of 2.5 percent and 5.8 percent in replacement passenger and light truck tire shipments, respectively, with passenger tire shipments pushing past the 200 million-unit mark in 2001.
The segment of the tire market not experiencing growth at the moment is the farm tire sector, where shipments have fallen off between 5 and 20 percent from last year, the TMAC said.
However, the group predicted that this downturn would be short-lived and that recovery in the agricultural tire segment would begin next year.
The TMAC comprises professional tire market analysts representing major U.S. tire manufacturers that together account for more than 90 percent of all U.S. tire shipments.
Their forecasts represent a consensus view.