WASHINGTON (March 14, 2016) — The impact of the U.S.'s elevated import duties on passenger and light truck tires from China last year was pronounced — imports slid 53.2 percent in both cases — but nearly every tire not imported from China was replaced by a unit from other low-cost Asian sources, according to Tire Business' analysis of the 2015 U.S. Commerce Department data.
At the same time, imports of medium truck and bus tires from China — now also under investigation for dumping and/or countervailing duties — jumped 6.3 percent to a record 8.9 million units.
While shipments of passenger tires from China dropped more than 27 million units to 22.6 million units, imports jumped markedly from Thailand (up 67.3 percent); Indonesia (44.3 percent); South Korea (21.4 percent); Taiwan (18.8 percent); and Vietnam (up six-fold), the Commerce Department data reveal.
These Asian nations accounted for nearly 20 million more units collectively than in 2014. As many as four new tire plants came on stream in Indonesia and Thailand in the past couple of years, including factories opened in Thailand by China's Shandong Linglong Tire Co. Ltd. and Zhongce Rubber Group Co. Ltd. and in Indonesia by Hankook Tire Co. Inc. and Maxxis International.
Qindao Sentury Tire Co. Ltd. is building a plant in Thailand as well, and Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. and Vee Rubber Co. Ltd. are expanding capacities significantly.
Chile and Mexico also boosted their exports to the U.S. by double digits — 25.3 and 15.4 percent, respectively.
Overall, imports were up 0.4 percent to a record 149.5 million units. When compared with the Rubber Manufacturers Association's estimated replacement market shipments of 206 million units, imports represented nearly 73 percent.
However, “captive” imports — that is, shipments from countries where the major U.S. tire companies have manufacturing, such as Canada, Japan, Mexico, Germany, etc. — accounted for more than a quarter of imports.