RMA predicts strong growth in ultra-high performance tire segment

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Tire shipments for 2007 will be a mixed bag, with replacement tire markets showing an increase of 1.4% and OE markets declining 3.8%, predicts the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA).

Tire shipments for 2007 will reflect the moderate domestic economic growth predicted for both the consumer and commercial sectors, says the group.

Overall, the combined OE and replacement shipments for 2007 auto and truck categories are anticipated to increase by just over one million units to approximately 307 million total shipments.

RMA’s Tire Market Analysis Committee forecast for key categories and their respective segments for 2007 include:

* Original Equipment Passenger Tires: The RMA projects this market will decrease in 2007 by approximately 2% to 47.3 million units compared to 2006 as a result of a decrease in domestic light vehicle sales and production. This will represent the second year in which light vehicle sales and production have decreased. However, it is anticipated that beginning in 2008, domestic light vehicle sales and production will increase. This, combined with the rising popularity of cross-over utility vehicles fitted with OE passenger tires (rather than light truck tires), is expected to have a positive impact in this category.

* Original Equipment Light Truck Tires: Slightly more then 5 million OE units are forecasted to be shipped in 2007, representing a gain of approximately 1% over 2006 levels as a result of increases in domestic light truck production. Any future growth in this sector will be slight as consumers opt for smaller-sized sport utility and light truck vehicles fitted with the P-metric passenger tires.

* Original Equipment Medium/Wide-Base/Heavy On-Highway Commercial Truck Tires: Sales of commercial truck vehicles will experience a sharp drop in 2007 as changes in EPA regulations pulled forward 2007 demand into 2006. The net result will be 21% decrease in OE shipments for 2007, or approximately 1.4 million units less then the 6.8 million units shipped in 2006. Future growth is expected to be erratic owing to additional EPA emission regulations taking effect in 2010.

* Replacement Passenger Tire: The passenger replacement market will increase by a modest 1.4% to approximately 199 million units in 2007 representing a gain of 2.7 million units over 2006’s shipments. Growth in this category is predominantly a result of increases in the P-metric tire market (for SUV-type vehicles), which is projected to grow more than 7%, and the high and ultra-high performance tire markets, which are projected to increase more than 7% and 11%, respectively, compared to 2006. Overall, the passenger replacement market will continue to increase by approximately 2% through 2009. Steady growth in this segment is largely attributed to continued growth in the number of vehicles on the road and increasing vehicle miles traveled.

* Replacement Light Truck Tire: This market segment is projected to increase by approximately 800,000 units to 34.4 million units in 2007 with continued growth through 2009 at an average annualized growth rate of approximately 2%.

* Replacement Medium/Wide-Base/Heavy On-Highway Commercial Truck Tires: This market is projected to be 16.9 million units in 2007, essentially unchanged from 2006’s shipments. However, this category is also forecasted to realize an annualized growth of just less than 2% through 2009.

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