SAN ANTONIO (April 13, 2009)—The U.S. market for certain earthmover and other OTR tires should begin to recover by late this year and into early 2010, speakers from Michelin North America Inc. and Yokohama Tire Corp. (YTC) told those attending the Tire Industry Association (TIA) OTR Conference recently in San Antonio.
Both speakers—Debbie Corzine from Michelin and Gary Nash from YTC—agreed the market last year for OTR tires fell, with their estimates ranging from 8 to 12 percent, depending on which database was cited. Shipments overall this year should be lower again, by perhaps as much as 10 to 12 percent.
Both also agreed that while demand for smaller-sized OTR tires, 49-inch rim diameter and below, was down substantially, demand for larger sizes, 51 inches and up, continues to outpace supply. Shipments of 63-inch E3 and E4 tires grew 11.6 percent, Ms. Corzine said, citing Rubber Manufacturers Association data, and 57-inch E4, E3, L4 and LS tires outpaced 2007 by 23.4 percent.
This dichotomy has split the market into two distinct segments—one where price dictates sales and the other where supply is still trailing demand.
The two speakers also agreed that the timing of a recovery will depend in large part on the effect of the federal government's stimulus package for construction. Demand for construction-related OTR tires is way down for now because of double-digit drops in housing starts, both residential and commercial, they said.
The stimulus bill includes $27.5 billion for highway and bridge construction investments, according to available data. States are required to obligate at least half of the highway/bridge funding within 120 days of its passage.
Further infrastructure investment includes $1.5 billion for competitive grants to state and local governments for transportation, $8.4 billion for investments in public transportation, $1.3 billion for investments in the air transportation system and $9.3 billion for investments in rail transportation.
Ms. Corzine, market intelligence manager for Michelin, noted several states have partial funding lined up for transportation infrastructure projects but need federal stimulus dollars to complete them. The hope, she said, is that some of them will green light the projects sooner rather than later once they clarify how much the stimulus package will deliver and when.
Mr. Nash, director of OTR sales for YTC, said global demand for larger sizes continues, although servicing this demand requires manufacturers to offer global pricing and direct billing.
New capacity for larger OTR tires being brought on stream by Bridgestone Corp., Eurotire Inc., Goodyear, Michelin, Titan Tire Corp. and Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. could bring supply and demand more into balance.
Mr. Nash also noted that for now coal and gold mining continues at a relatively unchanged pace, based on the current level of pricing for those minerals. Coal production continues rather unabated because of the nation's energy needs, especially during a colder-than-anticipated winter in many areas.
Other mining sectors have experienced measurable contraction due to the cutbacks in construction and vehicle building.
Ms. Corzine noted regional differences as well, with demand for underground mining tires in the eastern U.S. down 3 percent but up slightly in the West.
Mr. Nash said U.S. manufacturers have a good chance to hang onto market share in light of consumer wariness in some sectors where imports from the Far East have a less-than-stellar track record.
In North America, replacement shipments fell nearly 13 percent last year to 584,000 and could drop another 11 percent this year to 518,000 units. The heavy and large OTR segment slipped 5.7 percent to 255,000 units.
OE shipments slipped 11.6 percent to 297,000 units and are seen falling nearly 16 percent this year to 250,000 units.