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RMA predicts a 4 million tire increase in '13

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The final tire shipment number for 2012 is in, and it is the same as in 2011, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA).

Last year , total passenger, light truck and truck tire units shipped totaled 284 million units. A 10% increase in original equipment shipments offset a nearly 2% percent decrease in replacement shipments.

The RMA says the absence of overall growth can primarily be attributed to "a cautious consumer as well as economic uncertainties in both the commercial and consumer sectors of the replacement market."

Nonetheless, there were several positive signs in 2012 that bode well for an increase in 2013. They include:

* a declining unemployment rate,

* a rebound in housing, and

* increases in vehicle sales and vehicle miles traveled.

"These and other macroeconomic factors should result in approximately 288 million total tire shipments in 2013, an increase of approximately 4 million units or nearly 1.5%," says the RMA.

OE: shipments will increase 6%

OE tire shipments for both the light vehicle and commercial truck sectors increased 10% in 2012 due to increased demand for light vehicles and commercial trucks. A nearly 6% growth is forecast for 2013 "as new vehicle demand is expected to increase light vehicle sales to more than 15 million."

1. OE passenger tires. OE passenger tire shipments increased by 12.1% to 40 million units in 2012, a 4.3 million unit improvement. This reflects the 1.7 million unit increase in light vehicle sales for 2012. For 2013, light vehicle sales are anticipated to increase another 4.2% and crest the 15 million unit mark. As a result, 2013 OE passenger shipments are expected to increase more than 6%, or approximately 2.7 million units.

2. OE light truck (LT) tires. Light truck OE tires increased 1.5% in 2012 to 4.3 million units as domestic vehicle production using LT tires experienced a marginal increase due to soft economic conditions in this sector. This category is forecast to grow by nearly 100,000 units in 2013, or approximately 3%.

3. OE medium/wide-base/heavy on-highway commercial truck tires. An increase in demand for commercial trucks and trailers in 2012 boosted commercial OE tire shipments by 2.6%, and reached approximately 5.1 million units. However, demand for new trucks is expected to level off in 2013, and little or no change in the total OE tire units is anticipated.

Replacement: up 1 million units in 2013

Replacement tire shipments declined close to 2% in 2012 to approximately 235 million total units, a nearly 5 million unit decrease. For 2013, a modest increase of 1 million units is anticipated, in part because small growth is expected in the Gross Domestic Product and the Industrial Production Index for both the consumer and commercial sectors.

1. Replacement passenger tires. 2012 shipments decreased by 3.5 million units, or 1.8%, to 190.9 million units "as anticipated demand failed to materialize due to continued soft economic conditions and cautious consumers."  For 2013, improving economic conditions, positive signs of jobs added, and growth in vehicle miles traveled will be tempered by spending pressure on consumers; as a result, passenger replacement shipments are forecast to increase by a modest 1 million units.

2. Replacement light truck tires. Total 2012 LT replacement shipments totaled 28.1 million units, a decrease of approximately 500,000 units, or 1.9%. A nearly 1% growth is forecast for 2013.

3. Replacement medium/wide-base/heavy on-highway commercial truck tires. In 2012, this market declined by 4%, or 700,000 units, to 15.8 million units. There were two reasons for this: Fleets opted for new equipment and the economy remained sluggish. No increase is forecast for 2013 owing to a sluggish commercial sector.

To read what the RMA's Market Analysis Committee projected for 2012 and 2013 last December, click here.

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