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Tire imports still setting records

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AKRON—While U.S. aftermarket tire shipments last year fell short of 2011, tire imports—led by shipments from a resurgent China—set records in light- and medium- truck tires and came up just shy of the record in passenger tires, according to Tire Business' analysis of the 2012 Commerce Department data.

The end of the three-year run of elevated U.S. tariffs on imports of consumer tires from China last September led to a resurgence of shipments in the fourth quarter, pushing imports of passenger tires from China for the year up 32 percent over 2011 to 29.4 million units.

Overall passenger tire imports rose 5 percent to 120.1 million units, falling just shy of the record of 120.6 million in 2010, the Commerce Department data show. Chinese-sourced tires represented nearly one-fourth of all passenger tire imports last year, up from one-fifth in 2011.

Other big gainers in passenger tire imports last year were Thailand (up 22 percent) and Chile (up 47.9 percent), while Japan (down 30.9 percent), Brazil (down 19.2 percent) and Canada (down 10.1 percent) experienced double-digit drops in shipments.

Imports of light truck tires from China eased up slighly over 2011, but imports of Chinese medium truck/bus tires shot up 30.2 percent over 2011 to 6.33 million units, or nearly six out of every 10 truck tires imported, according to the data.

Overall, imports of light and medium truck tires were up 2.1 and 2.8 percent, respectively, over 2011. Imports of medium truck/bus tires were up 2.8 percent over 2011, reflecting lower shipments from most countries except China, South Korea and Italy.

The value of imports also rose last year, but not by as much in 2011 vs. 2010. The value of car, light truck and medium truck tire imports rose 7 percent last year to $11.2 billion over 2011, which in turn was 22 percent greater than in 2010.

The number of exports fell last year but the value rose slightly, leaving the trade deficit in these three main tire categories at $7.68 billion, up 7.6 percent over the 2011 deficit. Nearly 80 percent of passenger tire exports, 62 percent of light truck tire exports and 88 percent of medium truck tire exports went to Canada and Mexico.

The average declared customs value of an imported passenger last year was $60.39, up 7 percent over the $56.43 average in 2011. By country, average values ranged from $37.44 for a Chinese tire to $72.01 for tires from Canada.

The average value of an imported light truck tire was $86.30, up 4.3 percent over 2011, while the average value of an imported medium truck/bus tire was $204.62, eclipsing the $200 mark for the first time.

Average light truck tire values ranged from $67.47 from Vietnam to $112.30 for Japan; average medium truck values ranged from $163.19 from China to $441.82 from France.

To reach this reporter: bdavis@; 330-865-6145.
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