WASHINGTON—Offshore tire makers—those with no manufacturing presence in the U.S.—increased their share last year of the U.S. market in all the major categories. Offshore tire producers have their largest market in the U.S. in the medium and heavy truck and bus tire market segments, where last year offshore imports accounted for 16.5 percent of the U.S. replacement market, up from about 14 percent in 1998, according to a Tire Business analysis of government and industry data.
In passenger tires, offshore imports accounted for nearly 8 percent of the U.S. replacement market, vs. 6.8 percent in 1998, whereas in light truck tires, the offshore share edged up slightly to nearly 5 percent, the analysis shows.
Overall, one out of three passenger tires, one of four light truck tires and more than half of medium truck tires sold in the U.S. aftermarket last year were made outside the U.S.
However, tires imported by companies with manufacturing in North America accounted for more than three-fourths of the imports tracked by the U.S. Commerce Department.
Imports last year shot up in two of the three main product categories—passenger tires, up 22.4 percent to more than 67.1 million units, and medium/heavy truck tires up 28.9 percent to 10.9 million units—to give foreign-made tires increasingly larger shares of these U.S. marketplaces.
Imports of light truck tires edged up only 7.8 percent, to 8.87 million units, though radial shipments were up 55.6 percent; bias-ply shipments fell nearly 42 percent.
>From a value basis, imports in 1999 were worth $3.73 billion, up 19.8 percent from 1998.
By category, the value of passenger tire imports rose 22.6 percent to $1.92 billion, light truck tires fell 1.1 percent to $479.5 million, and medium truck and bus tires was up 24.8 percent to $1.33 billion.
As a result, the average declared customs value of an imported passenger tire last year was $28.56 vs. $28.50 in 1998. The average value of a light truck tire imported fell to $54.09 from $65.73, and the value of a medium truck/bus tire fell slightly to $122.39 from $126.45.
RMA data show its member companies accounted for 88 percent of passenger tire imports and 78 percent of medium/heavy truck tire imports. Among its members, the RMA counts South Korea's Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. and Kumho Industrial Co. Ltd.
Among individual nations exporting to the U.S., manufacturers in Taiwan more than doubled shipments of passenger tires, and tire producers in China more than doubled their exports of medium truck tires to the U.S., surpassing a million units for the first time.
Overall, Canada and Japan are the U.S.'s most active trading partners, although imports from Canada are all considered "captive" imports, since all the Canadian tire plants are subsidiaries of U.S.-based firms.
Canada was No. 1 last year in passenger and LT tires and No. 2 in medium truck tires. Japan is the No. 1 source of foreign-made truck and bus tires, and ranked No. 2 in passenger and light truck. Imports from Japan were up significantly in all three categories—passenger tires up 29 percent, light truck tires up 19.2 percent and medium truck/bus tires up 27.4 percent to 3.4 million units.
China has become a major source of tires in the U.S. Imports of passenger tires from China grew 67.9 percent last year after rising more than 10-fold in 1998 vs. 1997.