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RMA expects slight uptick in tire shipments for 2013

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WASHINGTON—The U.S. replacement tire market tanked this past year, falling nearly 6 million units, or 2.5 percent, from 2011, reflecting “continued economic sluggishness,” according to the latest Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) market analysis.

The RMA is less than optimistic for 2013 as well, projecting aftermarket growth of just 3 million units, or 1.3 percent, over the slumping 2012 total of 234 million units. The RMA cites projected growth in the Gross Domestic Product and Industrial Production Index as well as an increase in vehicle miles traveled for its forecast.

At 234 million units, 2012 replacement shipments are the lowest since 2009 and pale in comparison with the peak year of 2005, when replacement market shipments exceeded 256 million units. The drop last year accelerated in the second half; the RMA's mid-year forecast put the anticipated decline at 4 million units.

OE shipments, by contrast, are projected to grow nearly 4 percent this year over the 2012 shipments, which grew nearly 13 percent over 2011 to roughly 50.5 million units due to increased sales of new cars and trucks, the RMA said.

Replacement passenger tire shipments fell more than 4 million units last year, or nearly 2 percent, to 190 million units as anticipated demand failed to materialize due to continued soft economic conditions, the RMA noted. The market segment is expected to rebound by 3 million units in 2013 as the age of the nation's consumer vehicle parc continues to rise to nearly 11 years on average.

Replacement light truck tire shipments should finish out 2012 at approximately 28 million units—a decrease of about 600,000—and little or no growth is forecast in 2013.

Replacement commercial tire shipments declined by about 5 percent to 15.7 million units in 2012 as fleets opted for new equipment, but 2013 shipments are expected to rebound, rising nearly 4 percent, or about 600,000 units, the RMA said.

OE passenger tire shipments rose 15 percent last year to 41 million units, an improvement of more than 5 million. The RMA said shipments for 2013 should increase more than 4 percent, or 1.7 million units.

OE light truck tire shipments were up 2 percent in 2012 to 4.3 million units, as domestic vehicle production using light truck tires experienced only slight growth due to soft economic conditions, the RMA reported. The category is expected to grow 2.8 percent this year to nearly 4.4 million units.

Finally, increased demand for commercial trucks and trailers boosted commercial OE commercial tire shipments by more than 5 percent in 2012, reaching about 5.2 million units. A sluggish forecast for the 2013 Industrial Production Index likely will limit growth this year commercial to about 2 percent, the RMA said.
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