In our 2019 Mid-Year Tire Report, the consensus among tire manufacturers — at least those that make passenger and light truck tires — was focused on the emergence of the SUV/CUV market and the demand for larger tires to fit those vehicles.
Yes, that was just 12 months ago.
The first half of 2020 has been unpredictable, to say the least. The safety response to the coronavirus pandemic starting in mid-March kept people separated and indoors. While the automotive service and tire installation industry was deemed essential by the U.S. government, retail foot traffic stalled and many tire shops around the country had to make tough decisions to keep their businesses intact.
A significant share of tire production around the world shut down temporarily — with the exception of some agriculture, OTR and commercial tire producers.
The differences between this year and last are so vast that, really, the only thing they have in common is a sense of optimism for how they would respond to changing demand.
Despite a difficult first quarter and what likely will be an even more dire second quarter, the tire manufacturers featured in this issue — and in Part II of our Mid-Year Tire Report in two weeks — evoke a sense of optimism for the second half of the year.
Roy Bromfield, president and CEO of Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp., sums the reasons up well.
"Commercial segments have remained relatively strong during this crisis, so we expect them to be even more robust as we come out of it and business heats back up across the broader economy," Mr. Bromfield said.
"We believe the pent-up demand will be in consumer segments, certainly in the mass-market areas where drivers have limited their travel and postponed purchases, but also in enthusiast segments where people will be happy to go camping and racing and off-roading once again."
Goodyear noted an increase in the retread business as commercial fleets look for an affordable way to keep their trucks moving goods throughout the U.S.
Brandon Stotsenburg of American Kenda Rubber Industrial Co. Ltd. sees great potential for value brands, like Kenda, in the second half of the year," he said.
Look for more from tire manufacturers as well as a large focus on distribution and the aftermarket in the second part of our Mid-Year Tire Report, in our June 22 issue.