WASHINGTON (March 15)—The Rubber Manufacturers Association´s Tire Market Analysis Committee predicts tire shipments will fall slightly in 2001 before rebounding and posting improved growth rates through 2006. Tire shipments reached record rates in 2000, increasing 1.4 percent to more than 321 million units from the previous record of 316.6 million units in 1999, the TMAC said. The drop in 2001 can be tied to a softening U.S. economy and reduced auto and truck production. Shipments will recover after a 5 million unit decline this year to post annual 2 percent growth, the RMA committee predicts. The TMAC forecasts total tire shipments will break the 350 million unit mark in 2006, with H, V and Z speed-rated and cosmetic performance-rated passenger replacement tires growing the most with 8.5 and 3.3 percent annual increases, respectively.