WASHINGTON (Aug. 7) — U.S. tire shipments in 2006 will fall by 2.8 percent—or 8.9 million units—from last year´s levels, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
The latest forecast contrasts with an earlier version issued in March, in which the RMA predicted a 1.2-percent rise in shipments this year.
The RMA said the decrease reflects the overall slowdown in the U.S. economy as the second quarter´s GDP growth slowed to 2.5 percent from a healthy 5.6 percent in the first quarter. Slower economic growth and higher energy costs are forcing consumers to prioritize spending, including postponing tire replacement.
The organization said growth should resume in 2007 with total tire shipments expected to rise about 2.3 percent, or 7 million units to 319 million.
The RMA also forecast the following:
— Original equipment passenger tire shipments will fall 2 percent to about 51 million units with no growth expected in 2007;
— OE light truck tire shipments will hit 5.6 million units and 2007 should see a 5.6-percent gain (the category no longer includes service trailer tires, so a 2005 comparison is not valid);
— OE medium/wide-base/heavy commercial truck tires will increase 5.7 percent to 6.6 million units, followed by a steep decline of 16 percent in 2007, as a result of fleets buying ahead of new Environmental Protection Agency guidelines;
— Replacement passenger tires will fall by about 4.6 percent to about 198 million units though P-metric (SUV-type) and high-performance tires should see some gains. Shipments in 2007 should rebound to about 205 million units;
— Replacement light truck tires will fall 7.6 percent to 33.3 million units as drivers switch to crossover and smaller sport-utility vehicles; and
— Replacement medium/wide-base/heavy commercial truck tires will fall about 2 percent to 17.2 million units. But 2007 should see a gain of 400,000 units to 17.6 million units.