The Rubber Manufacturers Association expects total U.S. tire shipments to grow 3.2 percent in 2004 due to a rebound in the commercial trucking sector and a strengthening economy.
This follows a year in which shipments grew a slight 0.6 percent as strong replacement tire demand was offset by a decline in light vehicle, original equipment business.
The association also projects continued annualized growth of approximately 2 percent for total tire shipments through 2009 as the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Industrial Production Index (IPI) gain momentum.
The RMA's Tire Market Analysis Committee forecast for key categories and their respective segments for 2004 through 2009 include:
* Little or no growth in original equipment passenger tires between 2004 and 2009 as higher domestic light vehicle sales are offset by increases in Mexican and Canadian vehicle production along with increases in market share by off-shore auto manufacturers. This follows an approximate 5 percent decline in OE passenger tire shipments in 2003 to 54.4 million units.
* A sharp rebound in OE light truck tire shipments (up 6 percent to approximately 8.4 million units) in 2004, reflecting increases in light truck and sport-utility vehicles (SUV) production during the year. This compares with a 4-percent downturn in the category in 2003 to 7.9 million units. The RMA expects this segment will experience a strong 2.7 percent annualized growth rate through 2009, at which time tire shipments will approach 10 million units.
* Growth of 22 percent to 5.1 million units for OE medium/wide base truck tire shipments in 2004 as sales of commercial truck vehicles are expected to rise dramatically, which is in line with the 5 percent average increases forecast for the IPI over the next several years, the RMA said.
In 2003, OE shipments of medium/wide base truck tires rose 7 percent from the year before to 4.2 million units as the industrial sector rebounded. Growth in this category is expected to continue from 2004 through 2006 topping out at nearly 6.3 million units when stricter Environmental Protection Agency emission standards for trucks in 2007 will take effect and curtail shipments through 2009.
In the aftermarket, RMA's Tire Market Analysis Committee predicted:
* Shipments of replacement passenger tires will reach the 200 million unit mark for a gain of 2.6 percent in 2004, after climbing 1.6 percent to 193.6 million units in 2003. As a result, 2004 likely will set a record by exceeding the 198.9 million units achieved in 2000.
By 2009, the RMA predicted this category will break the 225 million tire barrier for an annualized five-year growth rate of just over 2 percent.
* Replacement light truck tire units will grow by 1.8 million units in 2004, the RMA predicted, vs. the year before when shipments rose 800,000 units to 34.5 million units.
The anticipated growth in 2004 will push light truck tire shipments to 36.3 million units, the RMA forecasted, due to strong economic predictions and more SUV and light truck vehicle owners opting for light truck replacement tires in place of P-metric passenger tires.
Over the next five years, this market will expand to 42 million units for a five-year annualized growth rate that will be just short of 3 percent, the RMA said.
* Replacement medium/wide-base truck tire shipments will continue to grow through 2006 when shipments are estimated to top out at 16.5 million units and will remain at this level through 2009.
This follows 2003 when the market grew 5.5 percent to approximately 15.5 million units, the RMA said.