U.S. replacement market shipments of passenger tires will fall 2.6 percent this year, to about 186 million units, but increased demand for light truck tires is offsetting at least part of the decline, according to the latest Rubber Manufacturers Association forecast.
The RMA attributes the replacement market drop of about 5 million units in large part to the ``pull forward'' effect of the Firestone recall and Ford Motor Co. replacement programs of 2000-2001 cannibalizing potential shipments during 2002. At the same time, though, the RMA said shipments of light truck tires to the replacement market should grow 8 percent-or about 2.5 million units-to 34 million units as both the sport-utility vehicle and light truck markets mature and light truck tires are viewed as an alternative replacement for P-metric light truck tires.
Looking ahead, the RMA sees demand for passenger tires-including P-metric light truck tires-growing 5 percent annually in 2003 and 2004 as recall-influenced tires bought in 2002/2001 begin to wear out and the economy rebounds. Within the passenger tire aftermarket, shipments of high-performance and ultra-high performance tires, respectively, should grow 9 percent and 12-percent annually through 2004.
Replacement demand for light truck tires should push shipments up 5.4 percent annually, to 37.7 million units in 2004, the RMA said.
Overall, shipments of passenger/light truck and commercial tires will grow less than 1 percent this year because of a slower-than-expected rebound in the U.S. economy. But demand, including original equipment and replacement shipments, is expected to pick up next year by as much as 4 percent, according to the RMA's Tire Market Analysis Committee.
Replacement shipments of medium truck tires are forecast to grow by 3 percent, to 14 million units this year and then by another 1.3 million units by 2004 to 15.3 million units. The annualized growth rate of 4.6 percent is in line with projected growth in the Gross Domestic Production and Industrial Production Index.
Other RMA projections are:
* Original equipment passenger tire shipments should increase 4.5 percent this year to 57 million units, as a result of the various new vehicle buyer incentive programs. However, no growth is forecast for the following two years as a greater volume of light vehicle production is apportioned to outside the U.S.
* Original equipment light truck tire shipments should hit 8.3 million units this year and grow at an annualized rate of nearly 5 percent to exceed 9 million units in 2004.
* Original equipment medium truck tire shipments should increase 3 percent this year, to 3.6 million units, as sales of commercial vehicles picked up in advance of pending stricter emission standards beginning in October. The expected economic recovery, however, should fuel growth for new trucks that could boost OE truck tire shipments by 19 percent a year through 2004.