WASHINGTON—The impact of the U.S.'s elevated import duties on passenger and light truck tires from China last year was pronounced, imports slid 53.2 percent in both cases, but nearly every tire not imported from China was replaced by a unit from other low-cost Asian sources, according to data from the 2015 U.S. Commerce Department.
At the same time, imports of medium truck and bus tires from China—now also under investigation for dumping and/or countervailing duties—jumped 6.3 percent to a record 8.9 million units.
While shipments of passenger tires from China dropped more than 27 million units to 22.6 million units, imports jumped markedly from Thailand (up 67.3 percent); Indonesia (44.3 percent); South Korea (21.4 percent); Taiwan (18.8 percent); and Vietnam (up six-fold), according to the Commerce Department's data.
These Asian nations accounted for nearly 20 million more units collectively than in 2014. As many as four new tire plants came on stream in Indonesia and Thailand in the past couple of years, including factories opened in Thailand by China's Shandong Linglong Tire Co. Ltd. and Zhongce Rubber Group Co. Ltd. and in Indonesia by Hankook Tire Co. Inc. and Maxxis International.
Qindao Sentury Tire Co. Ltd. is building a plant in Thailand as well, and Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. and Vee Rubber Co. Ltd. are expanding capacities significantly.
Chile and Mexico also boosted their exports to the U.S. by double digits to 25.3 and 15.4 percent.
Overall, imports were up 0.4 percent to a record 149.5 million units. When compared with the Rubber Manufacturers Association's estimated replacement market shipments of 206 million units, imports represented nearly 73 percent
However, captive imports—shipments from countries where the major U.S. tire companies have manufacturing, such as Canada, Japan, Mexico, Germany, etc.—accounted for more than a quarter of imports.
The average declared customs value of a passenger tire last year was $51.03, down from $51.55 in 2014. The biggest drop among the leading trading nations was China's, which fell 11.3 percent, or $4.06, to $31.90.
In the light truck tire category, imports fell 6.4 percent to 24.3 million units, led by China's 53.2-percent plunge, to just shy of 3 million units.
By contrast, LT tire imports from Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Taiwan, Japan and Mexico were up by double digits.
Canada remained the No. 1 source of imported light truck tires, despite dropping 18 percent to 7.53 million units.
The average value of an imported light truck tire fell 4.5 percent, or $3.24, to $72.37, the Commerce Department data show.
Among the leading nations, Vietnam had the lowest average price, $53.51, and Taiwan the highest at $102.06.
In the truck/bus tire category imports rose for the third straight year and accounted for roughly 80 percent of aftermarket shipments, according a comparison of the Commerce Department and RMA data.