Shipments of replacement passenger tires in the U.S. are expected to grow 3.2 percent this year over 2004-to a record 205 million units or more-but growth should moderate slightly next year, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA).
This growth would mark the first time shipments have exceeded 200 million units in any given year, the RMA said. Shipments of P-metric light truck tires designed for sport/crossover utility vehicles and ultra-high performance cars are expected to lead the way with 15- and 14-percent growth, respectively. Growth in this sector accelerated a bit in the second half of the year; in August the RMA had predicted 2.8-percent growth.
By contrast, replacement shipments of light truck tires should end the year 1.4 percent shy of the 2004 level at about 36 million units, the RMA said. Shipments are expected to rebound next year by 2.7 percent over 2005, reflecting the growing number of vehicles on the road and growth in the commercial sectors that use light trucks.
Solid replacement demand for medium/wide-base truck tires, driven by the continued growth in industrial production and freight movement, drove shipments of these type tires up 4.5 percent to 17 million units, the RMA said, and should fuel further growth of about 2 percent next year.
Shipments of original equipment (OE) passenger tires should be unchanged from 2004 at 53 million units, the RMA said, and will fall by about 0.5 percent next year, based on forecasts of declining North American auto production.
OE shipments next year could fall even more, depending on the fallout of General Motors Corp.'s recent decision to close a number of plants in North America, the RMA said.
Consumers' growing preference for smaller crossover utility vehicles, which use passenger-designated tires, is contributing to a 2.5-percent drop in shipments of OE light truck tires this year, the RMA said, and a further estimated 2.6-percent drop next year.
Shipments of medium truck tires to OE customers are expected to end the year 10.3 percent ahead of 2004 at 6.3 million units, the RMA said, on the strength of ``solid'' sales growth of new commercial vehicles.
Growth is expected to continue next year at more than 6 percent over 2005 but will level off thereafter as the trucking industry will have upgraded most of its fleets with vehicles that meet new Environmental Protection Agency emission requirements.
Overall, the combined shipments of replacement and OE tires are forecast to exceed 325 million units, or about 2.2 percent more than in 2004. Imported tires will account for all of the increase this year, the RMA said.