WASHINGTON, D.C.—After a sluggish first half, demand in the U.S for replacement passenger tires picked up in the second half sufficiently to push 2013 full year shipments nearly 5 percent ahead of 2012, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association's latest forecast.
Earlier in the year, the RMA was projecting U.S. aftermarket tire shipments would barely edge up over the 235 million units chalked up in 2012.
The forecast for 2014, however, is less than rosy at just 1 percent—or about 2 million units—over the revised 2013 figure, the RMA figures show.
By the numbers, the RMA is projecting the industry will ship about 9 million more passenger tires this year to the replacement market channel than in 2012, resulting in a shipment level of 200 million units this year.
The RMA chalked up the growth to increases in vehicle miles driven and in vehicle registrations.
For 2014, the association is citing continued economic improvement and lower fuel prices for the continued growth, albeit at a much slower rate.
Shipments of replacement light truck tires should end the year about 3 percent, or 800,000 units, ahead of 2012 at 29 million. Growth should continue in 2014 at a pace of about 2 percent, or 600,000 units, as the economy gains additional momentum, the RMA said.
Replacement shipments medium/wide-base/heavy on-highway commercial truck tires are expected to lag 2012 by nearly 2 percent, dropping to 15.9 million units, as a driver shortage has limited truck utilization.
For 2014 the RMA is projecting a rebound of about 300,000 units, or about 2 percent, as truck tonnage and manufacturing continue to grow.
On the original equipment side, passenger tire shipments are projected to reach 43 million units this year, nearly 3 million units, or 7.5 percent, over 2012, the RMA said, based on the anticipated sales of 15.5 million light vehicles for 2013.
OE tire demand is expected to increase about 1.5 million units, or 3.5 percent, in 2014 as light vehicle sales are expected to approach 16 million units, the RMA said.
OE shipments of light truck tire this year rose about 5 percent to 4.5 million units, reflecting improved domestic vehicle production using LT tires as well as stronger growth in housing and construction.
Demand for tires in this category is forecast to grow by about 2 percent in 2014 to 4.6 million units as the economy continues to expand, the RMA said.
OE demand for truck tires is expected to lag 2012 by 4 percent, dropping to about 4.9 million units, reflecting lower demand for commercial trucks and trailers.
Demand for new trucks and trailers in 2014 is expected to rebound, however, the RMA said, boosting demand for tires by roughly 5 percent to nearly 5.1 million units.
Overall, tire shipments are expected to end the year more than 4 percent ahead of 2012 at 297 million units, up 12 million units.
In 2014, the RMA expects overall demand to rise nearly 2 percent to 302 million units.
A declining unemployment rate, a rebound in housing, increases in vehicle sales and vehicle miles traveled, as well as other macroeconomic factors are expected to account for the 2014 increase, according to the RMA.