Non-U.S. tire makers continued to make inroads on the U.S. tire market last year, gaining market share in the passenger and light truck tire categories, according to an analysis of government and industry data.
Imports chalked up double-digit increases in the passenger and light truck tire areas, far outstripping overall replacement market growth in those categories, the analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Commerce and Rubber Manufacturers Association shows.
In addition, U.S. production fell in both categories last year, underscoring the growth of imports even more.
In the medium truck/bus tire area, though, imports grew only 1.8 percent while U.S. shipments and production grew 5.2 and 7.4 percent, respectively.
Tire makers in China in particular improved their shares, showing double-digit growth in all the major categories-passenger, light truck and medium truck/bus tires.
In the truck tire area, China's 17.7-percent growth, to 1.75 million units, put that country in a position to challenge Japan as the No. 1 source of imported commercial vehicle tires, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.'s decision to outsource all of its commercial vehicle tires to China will add up to 350,000 units a year to that country's total in the coming years.
Imports of passenger tires jumped 16 percent last year, or 11.3 million units, to an all-time record of 82.1 million units, while U.S. production fell 4.9 percent, or 9.6 million units, to 188.4 million units. Passenger tire imports from Canada, the U.S.'s largest trading partner, fell 0.5 percent, but shipments from Japan, South Korea, China and Mexico all shot up markedly.
Imports from the true ``off-shore'' manufacturers-that is, those not part of or affiliated with U.S.-based tire makers-jumped measurably last year, based on the import numbers from countries like China, Taiwan, Indonesia and South Korea. The estimated off-shore import share of the passenger tire aftermarket, for instance, climbed to about 20 percent from 17 percent a year ago.
The average reported value of an imported passenger tire was $30.48 last year, down slightly from $30.69 in 2002, according to the Commerce Department data. Among the major exporting countries, tires from Germany carried the highest value, $54.09, while those from Chile were valued at $19.16.
Imports of light truck tires grew 12.9 percent, or 2.2 million units, to 19.6 million units, the Commerce Department data show. This contrasts with a 2.1-percent drop in U.S. output of light truck tires, to 32.4 million units, and underscores the growth of off-shore tire makers in North America. Imports from Canada fell 3.5 percent, while shipments from most other major trading partners grew by 20 percent or more.
The estimated off-shore import share of the LT replacement market advanced to nearly 20 percent from about 15-16 percent in 2002.
Imports of light truck tires have now more than doubled in the past three years, to nearly 20 million units from 8.5 million in 2000.
The average value of an imported light truck tire edged up slightly to $44.56 from $44.33, while the range in values among the top 10 countries of origin was $21.50 from New Zealand to $64.18 from the United Kingdom.
As noted, imports of medium truck/bus tires edged up only slightly last year-after double-digit growth in 2002 vs. 2001-while the domestic market for truck tires grew more than 5 percent and production surged ahead 7.4 percent.
Among nations exporting to the U.S., Japan, China, Canada, the United Kingdom and India all boosted their shipments while South Korea, Germany, Brazil and Slovak Republic saw shipments shrink.
Nevertheless, off-shore imports still represent about one-fourth of the U.S. aftermarket of 15.5 million new tires.
The average value of the medium truck/bus tire import improved by 2.4 percent to $109 from $106.46, with a wide range by country: $66.80 from Mexico up to $147.52 from Canada.