The impact of the U.S.'s elevated import duties on Chinese consumer tires was quite evident, with China's shipments of car and light truck tires to the U.S. tumbling 30.7 and 22.5 percent last year vs. 2015.
As a result China fell to third from first on the list of nations that export car tires to the U.S. and to fifth from third on the light truck tire list.
Thailand claimed the top spot among nations exporting passenger tires to the U.S., leapfrogging South Korea in the process. Thailand shipped 23.8 million car tires to the U.S. last year, up 24.2 percent from 2015 and more than double the 11.4 million in 2014, Commerce data show.
Thailand's role as a source of tires for the U.S. is bound to keep growing, based on the number of tire plants that have opened there recently or are under construction.
Among the new plants there are ones opened by China's Qindao Sentury Tire Co. Ltd., Shandong Linglong Tire Co. Ltd. and Zhongce Rubber Group Co. Ltd.
Germany's Continental A.G. and China's Shandong Yinbao Tyre Group Co. Ltd. recently disclosed plans to build tire plants in Thailand, and both Bridgestone Corp. and Goodyear have announced expansions of aircraft tire capacity at plants there, while Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. and Vee Rubber Co. Ltd. are expanding capacities significantly.
The average declared value of a car tire from Thailand last year was $37.57, up slightly from 2015 but nearly 24 percent below the average of $49.12 for all imports.
The average value of a Chinese car tire import also fell last year, dropping 17.3 percent to $26.37, the lowest value among the top 10 countries on the import list.
Overall, car tire imports fell 2 percent last year to 146.5 million units, with six of the top 10 countries on the list showing lower shipments. The other big climber last year was Vietnam, which shipped 41.9-percent more car tires (4.29 million units) than in 2015.
Canada remained the No. 1 source of light truck tire imports last year, but Thailand slipped ahead of South Korea on the list by doubling the number of light truck tires it exported to the U.S. last year, and Indonesia jumped to fourth by nearly tripling its volume to 2.45 million units.
Overall, light truck tire imports rose 15 percent last year to 27.9 million units. As reported earlier, the light truck tire category was the most robust in the U.S. last year, growing 9.4 and 12.3 percent, respectively, in the aftermarket and OE sectors.
While unit shipments were up, the average declared value fell 4.8 percent, to $68.91, with prices ranging from $51.04 (Vietnam) to $94.31 (Taiwan).
China continued last year as the No. 1 source of imported truck/bus tires, despite shipments falling 14.4 percent, to 7.63 million units. Overall imports were off as well, by 3.8 percent to 13.9 million units.
As noted, Thailand's truck/bus tire exports to the U.S. jumped 98.7 percent to 1.82 million units. Canada, Japan and South Korea were third through fifth on the list, with South Korea's exports to the U.S. growing 85.1 percent to 421,239 units.
The average declared value of a truck/bus tire last year was $141.87, down 12.1 percent from $161.36 in 2015. Prices ranged from $96.12 (Thailand) to $306.98 (Italy).
The U.S. ran a trade deficit in tires last year of $10 billion — vs. $9.69 billion in 2015 — reflecting $2.54 billion in exports and $12.5 billion in imports.
Canada, Mexico and Australia were the top three destinations for tires exported from the U.S.
Collectively they accounted for nearly three-quarters of the U.S.'s exports.
Of the U.S.'s major trading partners, the U.S. held a surplus with just one country: Mexico, which took in $887.2 million worth of tires from the U.S. last year and exported $781.3 million to the U.S.
Australia was the No. 2 export destination for U.S.-made tires at $261.3 million.