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Tire sales were down industry-wide through March, says Michelin

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Original equipment shipments were up. Replacement shipments were down (but not in Mexico). Here is a snapshot of the North American tire market, as seen by Groupe Michelin, in the first quarter of 2006.

* The passenger car and light truck replacement markets shrank significantly (3.3%), although March was the first month of the year to show growth relative to 2005. Mexico's market was the only one to expand (by 3.6%). The entry-level S- and T-rated segments were worst hit; they decreased 11%.

"In a less supportive economic environment, due in particular to the impact of further oil price increases, 'sell-out' business was sluggish."

* New replacement radial truck tire sales were down 2.7%; Michelin says the combined effect of 1) continued favorable original equipment trends (up 3.6%), 2) a less supportive economic environment and 3) an unfavorable base effect (resulting from the replacement market having been boosted by truck OEM purchases in the first quarter of 2005) was primarily responsible for the decrease.

As was the case in the passenger and light truck tire markets, Mexico's replacement truck tire market (up 3%) was the only market to expand.

* The truck tire retread market posted 1% growth.

* OE passenger and light truck tire market growth of 1.7% was a strong reflection of the performance of Asian OEMs that stepped up their industrial operations in the U.S.

* The OE truck tire market was up 3.6%. "The trend should even accelerate in the last few months of the year as long-haul fleets are actively working to take delivery of their new trucks as close as possible to the introduction of the new emission standards on Jan. 1, 2007," says the company.

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