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Tire shipments to grow in 2004

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Tire shipments for 2004 are expected to increase by 4.1% vs. 2003 levels "due to broad-based economic growth in the consumer and commercial sectors," say Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) officials.

The RMA projects continued total tire shipment annualized growth of 2% through 2009.

Here is the association´s forecast for specific market segments:

* Passenger tires (original equipment): A decline of a little more than 1% to 54 million units is projected for 2004 "as domestic auto production decreases and passenger cars continue to account for less of the total percentage of overall light vehicle sales.

"Little growth is expected through 2009 as total shipments stabilize at nearly 56 million units owing to a slowing of domestic auto production and increased sales of off-shore vehicle imports."

* Passenger tires (replacement): The passenger replacement market is expected to grow by 4% to more than 201 million units this year, representing a gain of 7.8 million units over 2003 shipments.

"This market will continue to increase at a 2.4% annualized rate through 2009 at which point the total units shipped will be close to 227 million."

* Light truck (OE): "An increase of 400,000 units to 8.3 million units is expected for 2004 as the SUV and light truck vehicle markets continue to grow and more of these vehicles are fitted with the LT-designated tire."

Shipments are expected to top out at 8.9 million units by 2009 for a yearly growth rate of 1.3%.

* Light truck (replacement): This segment is projected to grow by 3.4 million units to 37.9 million units this year with continued growth through 2009 at 2.3% a year.

* Medium/wide-base truck (OE): "Sales of commercial truck vehicles will increase through 2006 to meet economic and industrial growth. The net effect will be 32% growth, or an approximate 1.2 million unit increase in OE shipments for 2004 to 5.5 million units.

"Strong growth is expected to continue from 2004 through 2006, averaging more than 10% per year to 6.8 million units, but will decline to nearly five million units in 2009 as stricter emission standards are put into effect in 2007."

* Medium/wide-base truck (replacement): This segment is forecasted to grow by 16 million units in 2004 thanks to a rebound in industrial production.

"Further growth exceeding 2% per year will continue through 2006, at which time shipments are estimated to be 16.7 million units, but will remain at this level through 2009."

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