All things considered, 2014 was in many ways a record year for the North American tire industry.
It was a year marked by record U.S. aftermarket passenger and truck tire shipments, record high-performance tire shipments, etc.
Yet somehow it doesn't feel like a booming economic situation.
Perhaps it's because the industry has been flirting with the 200 million shipment level for car tires for the past decadeup, down, back up, back downthat growth is only barely perceptible.
Maybe it's because retail tire sales are spread across so many more channelsjust consider the growth of tire sales through car dealerships, or through dozens of automotive service/repair chains and franchise networks that previously ignored the tire trade, not to mention through various sites on the Internet, etc.
Perhaps it's because the number of retail tire brands keeps expanding year after year, especially in the lower, entry-level tiers where dozens of brandsprimarily from offshoreseemingly come and go year after year as currency swings trade doors open or shut, as the case may be.
Perhaps it's the tendency of publicly traded tire producers to keep their market share gains or losses much closer to the vest than in years past, thus muting the impact of sales swings.
Or perhaps it's the uncertainty of what's going to happen with supply and pricing as the elevated import duties imposed on Chinese-made passenger and light truck tires take effect.
The imposition of these duties should serve to raise the pricing floor, but at the same time raw materials pricesincluding the still-plummeting value of oilare coming down, which could offset what many feel are inevitable price increases.
Regardless, it should be a time to stand up and take notice.
Shipments, both OE and replacement, were up across the board in 2014 and U.S. tire manufacturing regained footing, posting production gains for the first time in years.
In addition, demand for speed-rated tires pushed both OE and replacement shipments of these higher value-addedthat is, more profitabletires to record levels for the fifth straight year. In fact, half of all OE car tire shipments and a third of replacement shipments last year were of the H-, V- or Z-rated variety.
This issue of Tire Business contains our annual Market Data Book, a comprehensive collection of market statistics and benchmarking data relevant to tire dealers and auto service providers throughout North America.
So take a moment to give yourselves a collective pat on the backthen get back to work! Don't look now but the competition's sneaking up on you.