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Market share gains continue for Cooper brand, Dattilo says

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During a conference call to discuss the company's first quarter financial results, Tom Dattilo, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.'s chairman, CEO and president, said that he feels the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) expectation of a 2% growth in tire sales for 2006 may be a little too optimistic -- if retail demand remains soft.

Despite demand being flat, he expects price increases announced by tire manufacturers will stick, and they will continue to go forward with future increases to cover the rising cost of raw materials.

"I don't have any reason to believe that raw material prices have peaked," he said.

Tire manufacturers don't have a lot of choice when it comes to raising tire prices, he said. "Selling tires at a loss is not an attractive alternative for us."

Dattilo remains optimistic concerning Cooper's financial outlook, and feels the company will "see improvements quarter-over-quarter for the rest of the year."

He said Cooper continues to gain market share in all segments, including broad line, although it is tougher to gain market share in that arena due to lower cost imported tires. Cooper wants to continue to be effective in that segment, he said, and although he won't predict increases, he said the company "will continue fighting for it."

The company will continue to improve efficiencies at its plants, especially since operations are increasingly more complex due to the proliferation of sizes and the new technologies used in builiding today's high performance and larger light truck tires.

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