WASHINGTON, D.C.Replacement tire demand in the U.S. last year was slightly better than earlier forecasts, but the outlook for 2013 has worsened, according to the latest market summary from the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA).
Replacement market shipments fell 2 percent, or about 5 million units, last year, the RMA said, to 235 million units. That's an improvement of about 1 million units over the trade group's mid-December report, but at the same time the RMA has tempered its outlook for 2013, calling for a meager 1 million unit, or 0.4 percent, increase over 2012.
The RMA based its projection on expected spending pressures on U.S. consumers.
OE demand appears to be stronger than was anticipated four months ago, the RMA report shows. Overall OE tire shipments are expected to rise nearly 6 percent this year to about 52 million units on higher-than-expected vehicle manufacturing levels, the RMA said.
As for the replacement passenger tire market, the largest category, the RMA sees shipments rising only about 1 million units, or 0.4 percent, to 192 million units.
Replacement passenger tire shipments fell 1.8 percent, or 3.5 million units, last year to 190.9 million units.
The RMA anticipates only about 1-percent growth in replacement light truck tire shipments and no growth in the medium/heavy truck sector.
Light truck tire shipments fell 1.9 percent last year to 28.1 million units, and the medium/heavy truck tire aftermarket fared worse, dropping 4 percent to 15.8 million units as fleets opted to buy new equipment and the economy remained sluggish.
Demand for OE passenger tires this year is expected to push shipments up more than 6 percent, or about 2.7 million units, the RMA said, based on forecasts of domestic light vehicle production topping the 15 million unit mark.
This growth will be on top of 12.1-percent OE tire growth last year to 40 million units.
Light truck OE tire shipments should grow about 3 percent, the association said, to 4.4 million units, after rising 1.5 percent in 2012.
The RMA expects little or no growth in OE medium truck tire shipments, after increasing 2.6 percent last year to 5.1 million units.