PARIS — The steep drop in demand for tires caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in the first half of the year eased measurably in the third quarter, according to Group Michelin, with some markets — North America among them — actually showing volume increases over 2019.
Group sales fell 5% in the quarter, to $6.46 billion — versus the 31% decline in the second quarter — helping to "improve" the nine-month sales to $16.7 billion, which represents a drop of 16.8% versus the 2019 period.
Sales of passenger car and light truck tires fell 16.2% over the first nine months to $8.09 billion, with the volume decrease slowing to around 6% during the quarter ended Sept. 30, Michelin said, "demonstrating a robust quarter-on-quarter upturn."
Sales volume for the segment was off 17% for the year-to-date.
In North America, replacement market volume of passenger and light truck tires was up 7% in the third quarter versus the same period a year ago, driven in part by advanced purchases ahead of the possible introduction of new duties on imports on tires from South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and/or Vietnam.
The overall market increase resulted in a 4% gain in sales volume for Michelin in the quarter, the only geographic area to report a rebound. For the nine-month period, volume was down 13%, Michelin reported.
Another sign of economic recovery was strong freight demand, which led to replacement market truck/bus tire sales edging up 1% and 2%, respectively, in Europe and North America during the quarter, Michelin said. OE sales in this sector were up 11% globally, a situation Michelin said was skewed by 58% growth in China.
For Michelin, the situation in the truck tire markets was similar, with volumes falling 6% in the quarter and 20% during the nine-month period, with January-September sales coming in at $4.5 billion.
In the specialty tire businesses, which include two-wheeler, mining, farming and aircraft tires, Michelin noted a recovery in agricultural tire sales and a rebound in the two-wheel segment.
Sales in this segment were off 14.6% to $4.4 billion for the nine-month period.
The improvements, it said, helped offset a slowdown in the mining business, "which felt the effects of the [COVID-19] health crisis with a lag of a few months."
Michelin also noted a 1.7% currency impact on sales, which it said was offset by improvements in price-mix and share gains in the 18-inch and larger tire market.
The French group did not disclose details of its earnings development.