WASHINGTON (Dec. 7)—U.S. passenger tire shipments should hit a record level this year, growing 3.2 percent from 2004, but will slow slightly next year, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
Shipments of all tires types, both original equipment and replacement, will rise about 2.2 percent tomore than 325 million units for 2005. All that increase is coming from imports, the RMA said.
Replacement passenger tire shipments should exceed 205 million units for 2005, the RMA said, with shipments of tires designed for sport/cross-over utility vehicles and ultra-high-performance cars leading the way with 15- and 14-percent growth, respectively.
By contrast, replacement shipments of light truck tires should end the year 1.4 percent below the 2004 level at about 36 million units, the RMA said, but rebound next year by 2.7 percent over 2005, reflecting the growing number of vehicles on the road and growth in the commercial sectors that use light trucks.
Solid replacement demand for medium/wide base truck tires, driven by the continued growth in industrial production and freight movement, drove shipments of these type tires up 4.5 percent to 17 million units, the RMA said, and should fuel further growth of about 2 percent next year.
Shipments of original equipment passenger tires should be unchanged from 2004 at 53 million units, the RMA said, and will fall by about 0.5 percent next year, based on forecasts of declining North American auto production. OE shipments next year could fall even more, depending on the fallout of General Motors Corp.´s recent decision to close plants in North America, the RMA said.
Consumers´ growing preference for smaller cross-over utility vehicles, which use passenger-designated tires, is contributing to a 2.5-percent drop in shipments of OE light truck tires this year, the RMA said, and an further 2.6-percent drop next year.
Shipments of medium truck tires to OE customers are expected to end the year 10.3 percent ahead of 2004 at 6.3 million units, the RMA said, on the strength of "solid" sales growth of new commercial vehicles.
Growth is expected to continue next year at more than 6 percent over 2005 but will level off thereafter as the trucking industry will have upgraded most of its fleets with vehicles that meet new Environmental Protection Agency emission requirements.