WASHINGTON—The replacement of more than 6.5 million P-metric light truck tires, due to the Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. recall, will spur overall U.S. tire shipments to their fifth consecutive record year in 2000, according to a group of tire market analysts.
However, since many of the recalled tires normally would not have been replaced until 2001 or 2002, the recall will undercut replacement shipments over the next couple of years, the Tire Market Analysis Committee of the Rubber Manufacturers Association said in their final forecast for the year.
The combined total of all passenger and truck tire shipments for 2000, replacement and original equipment, should approach 328 million units, the TMAC said, up 3.7 percent from 1999's record total of 316.6 million units.
In the replacement market, the TMAC predicted record shipments in each of the three major segments: passenger, light truck and medium/wide-base truck. In the OE market, however, the group expected a new record in the passenger segment only, with shipments in the light and medium/wide-base truck segments falling from 1999 levels.
In the replacement passenger tire segment—which includes P-metric light truck tires—shipments were expected to climb 5.8 percent to 203 million units, nearly 11 million units beyond 1999's record 191.9 million units. The TMAC attributed nearly half the increase to the Firestone recall effort, which involved P235/75R15 light truck radials.
Shipments of P-metric light truck tires alone (a subset of the passenger tire segment) rose 50 percent from 1999 levels to 27.5 million units, the TMAC said. Minus the recall, this category is one of the fastest-growing in the tire industry, due to the popularity of light trucks and sport-utility vehicles during the 1990s.
Two other replacement passenger tire subgroups are projected to grow at rates higher than the industry average in the 2000-2002 period, the TMAC said. H/V/Z speed-rated and performance-rated passenger tires will grow at annual rates of 8.7 and 3.7 percent, respectively.
Replacement shipments of light truck tires (those with an "LT" designation), grew 3.6 percent in 2000 to 35 million units, the TMAC predicted, while shipments of replacement medium and wide-base truck tires rose 4.7 percent to 15.3 million units. Forecasting into 2001 and 2002, the TMAC said replacement passenger tire shipments should dip 2 percent in 2001—the result of the Firestone recall "borrowing" shipments from future years—but return to 2000's levels in 2002.
Shipments of replacement light truck tires should grow at an annual rate of 5 percent, reaching 38.6 million units in 2002, the TMAC said, while shipments of replacement medium truck/bus tires should increase 2 percent annually to 15.9 million units in 2002.
In the original equipment market, record sales of more than 17 million vehicles were expected to spur OE passenger tire shipments to a record 61.6 million units, from 61 million in 1999, the TMAC said. This segment should level off in 2001 and 2002, the group said, as vehicle sales slow to a "still strong clip" of more than 16 million per year.
>From a record 8.42 million units in 1999, shipments of OE light truck tires were forecast to drop 11 percent to 7.5 million units in 2000.