Tire shipments in 2005 are expected to grow by almost 2 percent thanks to steady economic growth in the consumer and commercial sectors, the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) said.
The RMA also said high gasoline prices apparently have not altered U.S. driving behavior.
Absent a change in driving behavior, the Washington-based trade association expects steady growth in shipments over the next several years as the economy continues its moderate growth pattern.
The RMA forecasts about 1.8-percent annual increases in total tire shipments through 2010.
Overall, combined original equipment and replacement shipments for 2005 are expected to grow by 6.1 million units to nearly 325 million units. By 2010, the figure will hit nearly 355 million units.
The RMA also predicted the following for specific segments:
* OE passenger tires will grow a little more than 1 percent to about 54 million units in 2005 on a slight increase in domestic light truck production. Little growth is expected through 2010 as total shipments stabilize because of slowing domestic production and increased sales of imports.
* OE light truck tire shipments will fall by about 400,000 units to 7.5 million units this year as consumers gravitate toward smaller sport-utility vehicles and light trucks, which are outfitted with passenger tires. Shipments in this category are expected to top out at 8.6 million units by 2010.
* OE medium and wide-base truck tires will see solid growth through 2006, including a 15-percent hike this year to 6.6 million units. Stricter emission standards in 2007 and 2010 will cause unit shipments to fall after 2006.
* Replacement passenger tires will rise 2 percent to 203 million units in 2005, caused primarily by demand in the high and ultra-high-performance tire segments. This category is expected to grow by 2 percent per year through 2010.
* Replacement light truck tires will increase by 1 million units to 37.4 million units this year with annualized growth of 2.4 percent through 2010.
* Replacement medium and wide-base truck tires will grow to about 16.5 million units in 2005 primarily on continued growth in industrial production.