AKRON (Feb. 13, 2015) — The operative word for this year's review of the North American tire industry was “increase” — as in increased shipments, production, imports, exports, etc.
A surge in imports in the fourth quarter — ahead of the expected imposition of countervailing and antidumping duties on Chinese-made passenger and light truck tires — helped push U.S. replacement market passenger tire shipments up 3.6 percent last year over 2013 to an all-time record of 206.5 million units, according to the latest Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) data.
Imports paralleled this development, rising about 3 percent to nearly 150 million units — also a record, according to RMA and U.S. Commerce Department data.
These and other key market statistics and trends are to be found in Tire Business' 2015 Market Data Book, which appears in the publication's Feb. 16 print edition.
U.S. tire manufacturers increased their output across the board last year, posting 1.7-, 10.7- and 7.6-percent gains in passenger, light truck and medium truck/bus tire production, but still lost ground to imports in the passenger and medium truck categories.
The manufacturing improvement was the first increase by the U.S. industry in four years, according to the RMA data. Production of passenger tires rose to 121 million units, light truck tires to 26.1 million units and medium truck tires to 14.9 million units, the RMA data show.
By contrast, imports of passenger and medium truck tires rose 4.7 and 30.1 percent, respectively, to nearly 150 million and 13.3 million units. Imports of light truck tires, on the other hand, climbed 6.7 percent, to 26.3 million units.
The rise in imports last year raised their share of the passenger tire replacement market to nearly 72 percent and 76 percent for medium truck tires.
The U.S. tire makers also boosted their exports last year, shipping 5.7-percent more passenger tires and 16.5-percent more light trucks to export markets, the RMA data show. Exports represented roughly 20 percent of car and light truck tire production. Exports of medium truck/bus tires fell 5.9 percent.
On the sales side, Bridgestone Americas solidified its claim to the top spot in North America with estimated tire-related sales of $9.7 billion, measurably ahead of Michelin North America Inc.'s $9.25 billion and Goodyear's $7.25 billion.
Bridgestone also is considered a leader on the retail of the ledger, reporting an estimated $4 billion in sales through its Bridgestone Retail unit. Mega retailer Discount Tire/America's Tire moved slightly ahead of Bridgestone Americas' retail store network in terms of revenue, with $4.2 billion in revenue in 2013, according to Tire Business estimates .
Discount Tire/America's Tire operated 900 stores are year-end 2014, fewer than half of the 2,183 stores under Bridgestone's control.
Other nuggets gleaned from the Market Data Book include:
- Demand for high-performance tires in the U.S. continued to increase, both on the OE and replacement sides, to the point where speed-rated tires, H and higher, now represent more than half of all OE passenger and one-third of replacement passenger tire shipments. Shipments of speed-rated tires rose roughly 12 percent at both OE and replacement to 24 million and 71.4 million units, respectively.
- Goodyear remained the No. 1 supplier of OE consumer tires last year, outfitting 28.5 percent of the 17.4 million cars, SUVs and light trucks built in North America in 2013 with its Goodyear and Dunlop brands. Michelin North America Inc. was No. 2 with its Michelin and BFGoodrich brands, ahead of Bridgestone Americas and Continental Tire the Americas.
- South Carolina solidified its status as the No. 1 tire-producing state, with an estimated 99,000 units of daily tire production, as new plants and expansions by Bridgestone Americas, Continental Tire and Michelin began having an effect. The state's collective capacity will keep growing with the addition of plants from Giti Tire and Trelleborg Wheel Systems in 2016.
- Import brands claimed more than a quarter of the U.S. passenger and light truck replacement markets, while the domestic makers' flag and associate brands represented more than 60 percent of each category.
- Shipments of winter/traction tires grew slightly, carving out a 3.5-percent market share, up from 3.1 percent in 2013.
The Market Data Book also contains benchmarking information on the automotive service sector and summaries of Tire Business' retail, commercial and retread rankings from 2014.