Economy slows tire shipment expectations, says RMA

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Retail and commercial tire shipments for 2002 will grow less than 1% due to a slower than expected rebound in the U.S. economy, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA).

However, according to the group's Tire Market Analysis Committee (TMAC), there will be a strong rebound in 2003 as the economy begins to recover. Further growth is forecasted for 2004.

Overall, the combined original equipment and replacement passenger, light truck and truck tire shipments for 2002 will increase by 2.7 million units, or less than 1%, compared to 2001's approximately 300 million total shipments.

In contrast, total shipments will increase by nearly 15 million units in 2003 and another 15 million units in 2004.

* OE passenger tires. As a result of the various new vehicle buyer incentive programs, tire shipments to domestic light vehicle manufacturers are expected to increase by 4.5% in 2002 to 57 million units. However, no growth is forecasted for the following two years "as a greater volume of light vehicle production is apportioned to outside the U.S."

* OE light truck tires. The total LT OE market for 2002 is expected to be 8.3 million units. It will grow at an annualized rate of nearly 5% and exceed 9 million units in 2004 (an apples-to-apples comparison to 2001 cannot be made because service trailer tires have been reclassified from passenger tires to LT OE tires).

* OE medium truck tires. While sales of commercial truck vehicles have picked up as a result of pending stricter emission standards (which begin in October), tire shipment demand to truck manufacturers will only experience an approximate 3% increase -- to 3.6 million units -- over 2001's levels. However, a significant 19% annualized growth rate is expected through 2004, as a greater number of trucks are sold to meet economic growth.

* Replacement passenger tires. The "pull forward" effect of P-Metric tire shipments from 2002 and 2003 into 2000 and 2001 from the Firestone recall and Ford replacement programs will take its toll on this year's shipment figures, according to TMAC. Shipments are forecasted to decrease to approximately 186 million units, but, based on an annualized growth rate of more than 5% through 2004, they will exceed 206 million units within two years.

The ultra-high performace and high performance markets will experience strong growth; they will experience annualized growth rates of 12% and 9%, respectively, through 2004.

* Replacement light truck tires. Shipments will experience an increase of 8% in 2002 to 34 million units as both the SUV and light truck markets mature and light truck tires are viewed as an alternative replacement for P-Metric tires. TMAC anticipates this market segment will grow at an annualized rate of 5.4%, eventually reaching 37.7 million units in 2004.

* Replacement medium truck tires. Shipments are forecasted to increase by 3% to 14 million units in 2002 and then by 9% to 15.3 million units by 2004.

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