Foreign-made passenger and truck tires lost ground in the U.S. last year, as imports of these two tire types fell significantly more than the markets overall, according to available government and industry data.
Imports of light truck tires, by contrast, jumped 46.4 percent over 2000 to boost their share of the overall market by several percentage points.
A 13.1-percent drop in passenger tire imports, to 64.7 million units, is the first decline in recent memory and far exceeded the 4.1-percent decline in the U.S. replacement market last year.
Of the 10 largest source countries for imported tires into the U.S., only China, Taiwan, Italy and Germany showed gains over 2000, according to U.S. Department of Commerce data.
China's 18.5-percent gain, to 4.89 million tires, made that country the fourth largest source of imported tires. The 4.89 million tires imported last year from China represent a 2.6-percent share of the U.S. replacement market, using Commerce Department and Rubber Manufacturers Association data. Of course, with a dozen or more manufacturers' brands and a score or more of Chinese-made private brands offered here, no single Chinese brand has emerged with a quantifiable market share.
If imports from Canada and Mexico are discounted as ``captive'' imports-i.e., from subsidiary companies of U.S.-based tire makers-then ``off-shore' imports accounted for slightly more than 20 percent of the U.S. replacement market last year vs. about 21.5 percent a year earlier.
The average value of an imported passenger tire rose nearly 5 percent last year, to $30.92, according to the Commerce Department data, with values ranging from $17.56 for a Brazilian-made tire to $55.43 for one from Germany.
The marked boost for imports of light truck tires came from three main sources-China, Taiwan and Canada-up 277.7, 137.9 and 112.9 percent, respectively, according to the government data. The 12.6 million light truck tires imported last year represent nearly 40 percent of the U.S. LT tire aftermarket, although the true foreign share-i.e., discounting captive imports-is closer to 13 to 15 percent.
The average value of an imported light truck tire was $46.12, a 5.6-percent drop from 2000; prices ranged from $32.48 for a tire from China, to $71.75 for one from the United Kingdom.
As for medium truck and bus tires, the decline was pretty much across the board, with two exceptions: shipments from Germany rose 13.4 percent and exports from Slovakia to the U.S. jumped 133.9 percent to 496,033 units.
The 7.1 million medium truck tires imported last year represent more than 52 percent of the U.S. replacement market for such tires, assuming that imports go exclusively into the aftermarket. Take away shipments from Canada, Mexico and a few other captive import sources, however, and the foreign tire makers' share of the truck tire aftermarket checks in at about 30-32 percent.
Imports from Japan fell 54.2 percent, and shipments from the United Kingdom-an important source of tires for Michelin North American Inc. the past few years-slipped 46.6 percent.
Average prices for medium truck tires fell 7.4 percent from 2000, to $106.10, with a range of $61.60 for a Chinese tire to $144.50 for one from Brazil.