WASHINGTON (Sept. 3, 2010) — Consumer tire production in the U.S. since last October has experienced double-digit growth over late 2008/early 2009, a rebound a new study attributes to the effect of high tariffs the U.S. imposed on consumer tire imports from China nearly a year ago.
The study, issued by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) — a partnership organization between the United Steelworkers (USW) union and a group of manufacturing companies including United States Steel Corp. and Allegheny Technologies Inc. — claims increasing tariffs on Chinese consumer tires last September to 39 percent “has resulted in the reversal in the massive decline in domestic production.”
Citing Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) data, the study says domestic production of passenger and light truck tires was up more than 15 percent, or 10 million units, during the period October 2009 through March 2010.
The RMA confirmed the AAM's analysis of the available data, but noted imports also have risen in the period under investigation and strong OE demand from car makers should account for up to 10 million units of added shipments this year over 2009. The RMA also is forecasting growth of more than 5 percent, or about 10 million units, in aftermarket demand for car tires this year.
A Tire Business analysis of available import data shows consumer tire imports in the nine months since the tariffs were imposed rose 9 percent over the comparable 2008-2009 period, with imports from China down 40 percent but shipments from other Asian nations way up.
Tire industry analysts and experts have cited other reasons besides the tariffs for the upsurge of tire production this year, such as low inventories and a need for tire companies to increase fill rates.
“The domestic industry and its workers had suffered four years of declining production during a period of general economic growth in the U.S.,” the report stated. The report quoted the figures the USW cited in requesting relief from the Obama Administration in April 2009, including the figure of more than 8,100 tire manufacturing jobs lost in the U.S. through the end of 2009.
The deep recession in 2009 caused tire production to fall even after the tariffs were enacted, but production is climbing again, according to the report.
The AAM study also cites reports of expanding employment and overtime work at plants operated by Goodyear, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and Michelin North America Inc.'s BFGoodrich Tires unit as signs of a recovery. The study notes 130 new hires at Goodyear, 115 at BFG plants and 350 at Cooper plants.
By contrast, U.S. tire makers cut nearly 3,000 workers from their payrolls last year in plant closings and production phase-outs.
President Obama imposed the tariffs last Sept. 26 under Section 421 of the Trade Act, which allows U.S. industries claiming injury from an upsurge of Chinese imports to seek relief. The tariffs amount to 39 percent in the first year, 34 percent in the second and 29 percent in the third before falling back to the previous level of 4 percent.
The study also contends, “Allowing the tariffs to stay in effect for the full three years will give the U.S. producers time to reestablish market commensurate with underlying competitiveness,…” and notes that Chinese sources have indicated China's tire industry “did not see significant adverse impact” from the 421 safeguard.