WASHINGTON (Aug. 12)—U.S. tire shipments for the rest of the year will slide 1.5 percent from 2002 levels as the economy's recovery remains elusive, though 2004 may see an increase of nearly 3 percent, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association. The gain in 2004 likely is to come from the anticipated high rate of light vehicle production, a rebound in the commercial trucking sector and a strengthening U.S. economy, the RMA said. The association predicts tire shipments will grow about 3 percent annually through 2008 as the country's gross domestic product and industrial production index rise. This year, combined original equipment and replacement shipments for auto and truck tire categories are expected to fall 4.5 million units to about 304 million units, down from 2002's 308.4 million total shipments. By 2008, the RMA anticipates the combined total will be 348 million units.