The continuing fallout of the Firestone Wilderness AT recalls of the past two years will skew replacement market demand in the coming years, according to the latest Rubber Manufacturers Association shipment data.
Owners of light trucks and sport-utility vehicles, conscious of the tread separation hysteria of 2000-2001, are expected to opt for more rugged LT-designated light truck tires to replace their original equipment P-metric light truck tires, the RMA said.
This demand shift will push LT tire replacement shipments up this year by 4.8 percent and contribute to a 16-percent drop in demand for P-metric light truck tires.
The RMA's Tire Market Analysis Committee (TMAC) also sees growth in two other replacement market segments-medium and wide-base truck tires, where shipments should grow 1 percent this year and 6 percent in 2003, and in H/V/Z speed rated passenger tires, where shipments will be up 11 percent this year and next.
Replacement passenger tire sales this year are expected to be unchanged from 2001, at 190.8 million units, after falling 4.1 percent last year.
Overall, the tire industry shipments fell 6.6 percent in 2001 because of the economic recession and consumer uncertainty after the events of Sept. 11, and recovery isn't expected until at least next year, the RMA said. Total industry shipments slid more than 21 million units to 300 million.
Little or no growth is expected in 2002 as the economy begins a slow turnaround but a significant 4.7-percent rebound is forecast for 2003.
Canadian replacement shipments increased 4.3 percent last year to 19.3 million units, according to Rubber Association of Canada data.
U.S. replacement tire shipments for passenger cars, light trucks and commercial trucks all experienced moderate decreases in 2001 ranging from more than 4 percent for passenger tires to nearly 10 percent for commercial truck tires.
However, further declines in the passenger replacement market were offset by 10.2-percent growth in the P-metric light truck tire market mostly as a result of Ford Motor Co.'s program to replace Firestone tires, which came to an end March 31.
The P-metric replacement market will decline by more than 15 percent in 2002 because of demand being pulled forward into 2000 and 2001 from the Bridgestone/Firestone recall and replacement programs, the TMAC said.
Key figures for 2001 and projections for 2002 and 2003 include:
* Original equipment passenger tires: Shipments to domestic light vehicle manufacturers fell 9.4 percent to 54.6 million units. This segment will experience another 2-percent decrease in 2002 before rebounding in 2003 to more than 56 million units.
* OE medium/wide-base truck tires: Slow sales of commercial truck vehicles and a large inventory of commercial trucks contributed to a 38-percent drop to 3.4 million units in 2001. This market will not see growth until 2003; and
* Replacement passenger tires: Demand will be stagnant as recall-related shipments have ``borrowed'' from 2002 and 2003.