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RMA: nearly 6 million more units in 2012

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Tire shipments in 2012 are projected to increase by approximately 2% -- nearly 6 million units -- to 290 million units, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA).

For 2011, tire shipments showed a slight 0.2% decrease to 284 million units. Contributing to the small growth were a 26% year-over-year increase in gas prices that affected vehicle miles travelled as well as several global natural disasters that affected vehicle builds and original equipment shipments.

OE tire shipments for both the light vehicle and commercial truck markets will make up the bulk of the increase in 2012, as continued pent-up demand for both for light vehicles and commercial trucks will add to domestic new vehicle sales and production.

Growth in replacement tire shipments in 2012 is expected to be less than 1%, or approximately 242 million total units.

The RMA's Tire Market Analysis Committee says higher fuel costs may further affect vehicle miles travelled. However, the forecast is for "continued overall positive economic conditions for both the consumer and commercial sectors as both the Gross Domestic Product and Industrial Production indicators are expected to show moderate growth."

OE passenger tires: Passenger OE tire shipments are anticipated to increase by approximately 3 million units, or nearly 8%, to 38.6 million units in 2012 as domestic vehicle production is expected to increase. Total light vehicle sales for 2012 are projected to be greater than 13.5 million vehicles, up from 12.8 million vehicles sold in 2011.

OE tire shipments for 2011 came in at 35.7 million units, up nearly 8% as domestic auto production continued to increase. Of note were the vehicle inventory and availability issues as a result of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, which disrupted supply chains and impacted OE shipments.

OE light truck tires: Little or no growth in this category is anticipated for 2012 as further vehicle domestic production increases will be small. As a result, total shipments are forecast to remain at approximately 4.2 million units.

This category experienced a 15.7% increase in 2011 to approximately 4.2 million total units due to a 9% increase in domestic vehicle builds using LT tires and improved economic conditions respective to the commercial sectors.

OE medium/wide-base/heavy on-highway commercial truck tires: This sector is forecast to continue to grow by approximately 12% in 2012, or nearly 600,000 units, as the commercial sector continues to strengthen reflecting economic growth forecasts.

Medium OE tire shipments increased by approximately 1.7 million units in 2011, or 55%, to nearly 5 million units, reflecting pent-up demand for commercial trucks and trailers concurrent with a 4.1% increase in the Industrial Production Index.

Replacement passenger tires: The economy is expected to continue to experience a slow rebound in 2012 commensurate with a small increase in miles driven. As a result, an approximate 1% growth rate -- nearly 2 million units -- is forecast for 2012.

Non-RMA imports decreased nearly 9% in 2011, but an approximate 7% increase is anticipated for 2012. Shipments decreased in 2011 by 6.2 million units, or 3.1%, to 194.4 million units as vehicle miles traveled fell 1.2%.

Replacement light truck tires: Little or no growth is anticipated in 2012 as miles driven by small commercial vehicle market, mainly Class 3 trucks, as well as a core group of consumers will remain relatively constant.

LT tire shipments showed a slight decrease of 0.3% to 28.6 million units in 2011. The increase in new light truck vehicle sales plus fewer miles travelled contributed to this slight decrease in replacement shipments.

Replacement medium/wide-base/heavy on-highway commercial truck tires: For 2012, growth is expected to moderate such that tire shipments will increase by approximately 2%, or 400,000 units.

This market increased by approximately 700,000 units in 2011 to 16.5 million units, as the commercial sector of the economy grew by nearly 4%.

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