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China tire imports surge

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AKRON—Imports of car tires from China doubled in October and November 2012 vs. the same period in 2011, the first full months after the elevated U.S. import tariffs on such tires expired on Sept. 27.

Imports from China surged in October, to 3.56 million units from 1.74 million a year earlier, and November, to 3.19 million units from 1.64 million, according to data from Global Trade Information Services Inc. (GTIS), which generates trade statistics from U.S. and foreign government databases.

The increases pushed China's total for the January-November period up 26 percent to 26.1 million units, which contributed to double-digit increases in both months and pushed the year-to-date total imports up 4.9 percent to 116.2 million units, the data showed.

As such, Chinese tires accounted for 22.5 percent of all imports for the 11-month period, vs. 18.7 percent in the same period in 2011.

At the same time, the declared value of the average imported Chinese car tire went up in both months, to $39.53 in October and $40.08 in November, vs. the value in those months in 2011 and from the prevailing prices in July-September 2012, which were in the $35-$37 range.

Imports of Chinese light truck tires, which also were subject to the elevated tariffs—25 percent in the year ended Sept. 27, 2012—nearly doubled in October vs. October 2011 to 376,202 units and jumped 88 percent in November to 330,997 units, the GTIS data show.

The surge of Chinese imports contributed to a 13.9-percent jump in overall imports during October and a 6.3-percent increase in November. Canada remained the No. 1 source of imported light truck tires.

Despite the surge in October and November, the January-November imports from China of 2.67 million LT tire units were 3.1 percent short of the equivalent 2011 period, the data show.

In contrast to the passenger tire sector, the value of light truck tires from China slid slightly in October and November from both the year-ago months and the months leading up to the expiration of the tariffs. The average declared value in November, for example, was $67.33, down from $70.36 in November 2011 as well as from $69.20 in September 2012 prior to the tariffs expiring.

The increases in imports came at a time when overall U.S. tire replacement shipments were slumping, meaning imports' share grew at the expense of domestic production.

Overall replacement passenger tire shipments fell more than 4 million units last year, or nearly 2 percent, to 190 million units, according to the latest Rubber Manufacturers Association statistics. Comparing the two sets of statistics would mean imports captured nearly 70 percent of the market last year.

Replacement light truck tire shipments in 2012 were estimated to have dropped about 2 percent to 28 million units, meaning imports accounted for about three-fourths of the market, and Chinese imports for roughly 10 percent.
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