WASHINGTON—Light truck tires continued to be the hottest segment of the tire market in 1999, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association's final U.S. tire shipment projections for the year. However, overall tire shipments will show lower growth in 2000 and 2001 because of a slowing economy, the RMA Tire Market Analysis Committee predicts.
Both the replacement and original equipment light truck tire segments will set new records in 1999, increasing 18.6 and 21 percent, respectively, from 1998's record figures, the committee forecast.
OE light truck tires will be the largest growth category in 1999, adding 1.5 million units to last year's final tally of 7 million. Replacement P-metric light truck tire shipments will reach 17.2 million in 1999, almost 3 million more than 1998, the committee reported.
Other record-breaking results in 1999 will be OE passenger tires, which will breach the 61 million mark, an 8-percent leap over 1998 figures; and OE medium/wide-base truck tires, which will fall just short of 7 million units, 15 percent higher than 1998's record level of 6 million, according to the report.
Replacement passenger tire shipments for 1999 also will set a record volume of 191 million, 3 percent higher than 1998's record level of 185.5 million.
The TMAC followed economists' forecasts that the U.S. Gross Domestic Product will slow to an average growth rate of 2.8 percent in 2000 and 2001, after generating growth of between 3 and 4 percent for the past few years.
Slower economic expansion will retard growth in almost all tire categories except aftermarket light truck tire shipments. That sector is expected to show a rise of 16 percent in 2000 and 15 percent in 2001, achieving a volume of 23 million units in 2001, the TMAC said.
Replacement passenger tire shipments will grow at an annual average of 2.5 percent through 2001 and are expected to break the 200 million barrier that year.
Aftermarket shipments of medium and wide-base truck tires should increase 2.8 percent per year through 2001, reaching a volume of 15 million units, the TMAC said.
OE passenger and light truck tire deliveries will drop 4 percent in 2000 and level off in 2001 at 59 million units for OE passenger tires and 8.6 million units for OE light truck tires, according to the committee's forecast.
The farm tire sector was the only category to drop in 1999 because of bad weather, low prices, high inventories and weak export demand for agricultural products.
The TMAC expects the sector to rebound as the agricultural and worldwide economy improves through 2001.