WASHINGTON - The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) projects an approximate 13-percent drop in tire shipments in 2009 primarily due to sharp decreases in demand for original equipment passenger and commercial truck tires, according to Modern Tire Dealer.
Total 2009 tire shipments are projected to decline approximately 36 million units to 246 million units, says the RMA. "This decrease reflects the difficult economic environment for automotive manufacturers over the past year, continued low consumer confidence and high unemployment. Tire shipments peaked at 321 million in 2000," the RMA reports.
The association reports "vehicle miles travelled is on par with 2008 levels as the domestic economic conditions for both the consumer and commercial sectors appears to have stabilized and are poised for a rebound in 2010. As a result, the tire industry is expected to realize a nearly 6-percent growth in 2010 reaching the 260 million unit level."
RMA's Tire Market Analysis Committee forecast for key categories and their respective segments for 2009 include:
* Original equipment (OE) passenger tires: Large decreases in domestic vehicle production due to plant shutdowns will result in a nearly 43-percent decrease in 2009 OE tire shipments to approximately 22 million units. The federal government's "cash for clunkers" program pulled forward future years' vehicle sales into 2009, which mitigated an even steeper drop in OE tire shipments. An improving economy and a rebound in vehicle production and sales are anticipated in 2010 resulting in a nearly 8 million unit increase projected for OE tire shipments. This projection does not account for any possible changes to the auto industry from further federal intervention or consumer incentive programs.
* Original equipment light truck (LT) tires: This category will experience an approximate 9-percent decrease, or 300,000 units, in 2009 to nearly 2.7 million units due to slower economic conditions and its impact on the commercial sectors which utilize light truck vehicles. Little or no growth is anticipated for 2010 as domestic vehicle production is projected to remain weak.
* Original equipment medium/wide-base/heavy on-highway commercial truck tires: A nearly 41-percent decline to approximately 2.3 million units is anticipated for 2009 -- a decrease of approximately 1.6 million units. The economic rebound anticipated for 2010 along with pent up demand for vehicles is projected to result in a net gain of approximately 350,000 units.
* Replacement passenger tire: Shipments will decrease approximately 12 million units to nearly 180 million units for an approximate 6-percent decline. Growth is anticipated to resume in 2010 with the replacement sector estimated to increase by approximately 4 million units, or about 3-percent, as economic conditions improve. Non-RMA imports accelerated in July and August prior to imposition of a three-year Chinese import tariff on Sept. 26. These imports are anticipated to drop off dramatically in October and remain at depressed levels through the three year period.
* Replacement light truck tire: This segment represents a core group of consumers and the small commercial vehicle market -- mainly "Class 3" trucks. The onset of the economic recovery has limited the impact of the decline in LT tire shipments to nearly 3 million units, or 11 percent, for a total of approximately 26 million units. Little or no increase is anticipated in 2010 in keeping with commercial economic forecasts and the impact of the Chinese tire tariff.
* Replacement medium/wide-base/heavy on-highway commercial truck tires: The market is anticipated to decrease by approximately 2.3 million units in 2009 to nearly 12.6 million units. Given the uneven economic rebound forecast for 2010, this market is expected to increase by less than 1 million units to nearly 13 million units.