AKRON-China´s clout as a trading partner in the global tire industry clearly is visible in the latest Department of Commerce data.
Led by 38-percent growth in shipments to the U.S. last year, China became the No. 1 source of imported truck tires in the U.S. China eclipsed long-time leader Japan by 400,000 units. Chinese tire makers also boosted their exports of passenger and light truck tires to the U.S. by double-digit percentages.
Overall, imported truck tires, including those from Canada and Mexico, accounted for 42.7 percent of the U.S. original equipment and replacement tire shipments. Imports from offshore-nations that don´t have a North American tire company presence-owned 49.5 percent of the U.S. truck tire aftermarket.
Domestic production of medium truck/bus tires, meanwhile, grew 3.6 percent in 2004 from the year before.
Based on the raw numbers, medium truck tires made in China represented 14.8 percent of the U.S. replacement market, up three-and-a-half percentage points from 11.3 percent in 2003. Tires from Japan accounted for 12.4 percent.
Among major countries exporting truck tires to the U.S., Japan, South Korea and India experienced declines in shipments, whereas Brazil and Mexico booked double-digit increases. In addition, shipments from Costa Rica jumped 10-fold to put that Central American nation into the top 10 countries of origin.
This year Malaysia may emerge among the leading countries of origin, as Continental A.G. intends to source up to 100,000 truck tires for the U.S. from its new subsidiary there, Continental Sime Tyres.
Overall imports accounted for 37 percent of the U.S. passenger tire market (OE and replacement combined), up from 33.1 percent in 2003.
Factoring out shipments from Canada and Mexico, tires made outside of North America still represented more than a third of the U.S. replacement passenger tire market, the data showed.
Taking the calculation one step further, the estimated "offshore" import share of the passenger tire aftermarket climbed to nearly 23 percent, from about 20 percent a year ago, and 17 percent in 2002. (Off shore imports are tires from countries where the manufacturers are not part of or affiliated with U.S.-based tire makers.)
Imports of passenger tires jumped 13.7 percent last year to 93.3 million units, while U.S. production of these tires fell 2 percent to 184.6 million units.
In the light truck tire area, imports and replacement shipments both grew about the same rate last year, 5.4 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively. Light truck tire imports contributed 20.7 million units in 2004, representing 47.3 percent of the light truck tire market (OE and replacement combined).
Over the past four years, imports of light truck tires have more than doubled. At the same time, domestic production of light truck tires grew only 1.6 percent, accentuating the growth of imports even more.