U.S. tire shipments will increase by more than 2 percent this year on steady economic growth in the consumer and commercial sectors, the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) said recently.
As long as motorists don't change their driving behavior because of rising gasoline costs, steady growth in tire shipments should continue over the next 18 months, the association added.
In 2005, combined original equipment and replacement shipments for auto and truck categories are expected to increase by 7 million units, or 2.2 percent, to 325 million units. The RMA also anticipates growth of greater than 2 percent for 2006 for total tire shipments.
The RMA also made the following forecasts for specific segments:
* OE passenger tires: This segment should shrink by 0.4 percent to 53 million units in 2005, reflecting a decrease in production of light trucks and sport-utility vehicles with P-metric tires. RMA expects a 1-percent increase in 2006 on a modest increase in light vehicle sales and production.
* OE light truck tires: A decrease of 2.5 percent in 2005 to 7.7 million units is forecast as consumers move to smaller crossover vehicles, followed by a 1-percent increase in 2006 on growth in the commercial sector.
* OE medium/wide-base truck tires: This segment should see growth of greater than 13 percent in 2005 to 6.5 million units, followed by growth of slightly less than 5 percent in 2006.
* Replacement passenger tires: The RMA expects an increase of 2.8 percent to more than 204 million units in 2005, primarily on P-metric, high and ultra-high performance markets, increasing 13.6, 5 and 13 percent, respectively. 2006 should bring similar growth in those categories.
* Replacement light truck tires: The segment will increase by 1.4 percent to 37 million units in 2005 and grow another 2.4 percent in 2006.
* Replacement medium/wide-base truck tires: This market should grow to 16.9 million units in 2005, followed by growth of more than 2 percent for 2006.
The RMA did not provide data on how the growth breaks down by U.S. production vs. imports.