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RMA: 'Tire shipments to accelerate in 2004'

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Domestic tire shipments will grow by 3.2% overall in 2004 thanks to "a rebound in the commercial trucking sector and a strengthening United States economy," say Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) officials.

The association is forecasting the following shipment numbers for 2004 through 2009:

* Passenger tires (original equipment): "Little or no growth is anticipated for 2004 through 2009 as increases in domestic light vehicle sales are off-set by increases in Mexican and Canadian vehicle production, along with increases in market share by off-shore auto manufacturers," say RMA officials;

* Passenger tires (replacement): Total replacement passenger tire units will reach 200 million in 2004 for a gain of 2.6%. "As a result, 2004 will likely set a record by exceeding 198.9 million units achieved in 2000." The RMA projects that the segment will break the 225 million tire barrier by 2009 thanks to a yearly growth rate of just over 2%.

* Light truck tires (OE): Shipments will "rebound sharply" from 2003 numbers by nearly 6% to 8.4 million units, "reflecting increases in light truck and sport utility vehicle production for 2004, with more of these fitted with LT tires. This market will continue to experience a strong 2.7% annualized growth rate through 2009, at which time shipments will approach 10 million units."

* Light truck tires (replacement): Shipments will reach 36.3 million units "due to strong economic predictions and more SUV and light truck vehicle owners opting for LT replacement tires in place of P-metric passenger tires." The RMA predicts the replacement light truck tire segment will grow just under 3% a year for the next five years, expanding to 42 million units by 2009.

* Medium/wide-base truck tires (OE): Shipments will jump by 22%, or 900,000 units, to 5.1 million units as commercial truck vehicle sales increase. "Growth is expected to continue from 2004 through 2006, topping out at nearly 6.3 million units when stricter Environmental Protection Agency emission standards for trucks for 2007 will take effect and curtail shipments through 2009."

* Medium/wide-base truck tires (replacement): Growth will continue from 2003 through 2006, when shipments will top out at 16.5 million units and remain at that level for the following three years.

Last year also saw shipment hikes, according to RMA officials, as OE and replacement tire shipments in the above light vehcile and commercial truck categories increased by 1.9 million units to nearly 310 million units.

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