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RMA: Expect overall shipments to rise in 2010

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Tire shipments are projected to increase by approximately 7 million units in 2010 compared to 2009, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA). The 3% increase is in contrast to the 8% drop from 2008 to 2009.

The increase in tire shipments "reflects the onset of the economic rebound, an increase in vehicle miles traveled, and a slight uptick in auto sales. As a result, this rebound is projected to extend into 2011, reaching approximately 275 million units, as the economic recovery gathers momentum."

Here are the RMA's final shipment numbers for 2009 and forecasts for 2010, courtesy of its Tire Market Analysis Committee.

* Original equipment passenger tires. "Passenger OE shipments declined by nearly 35% in 2009 to 24.6 million units -- a low point for recent history -- attributable to the economy, and large vehicle production cuts.

"For 2010, light vehicle production is forecast to rebound slightly, resulting in an approximate 21% increase in OE passenger tire shipments to nearly 30 million units."

* Original equipment light truck (LT) tires. "Consumer and commercial demand for LT OE tires were less severely impacted by the light vehicle production cuts. As a result, shipments declined only 4% to 2.79 million units, a 100,000 unit year-over-year drop.

"For 2010, this category will experience a nearly 10% increase to more than 3 million units, reflecting a strengthening economy."

* Original equipment medium/wide-base/heavy on-highway commercial truck tires. "For 2009, this category decreased by 36.9% to 2.4 million units, attributable to the continued large economic slowdown in the commercial sector.

"For 2010, commercial activity is expected to pick up resulting in a nearly 8% increase, or approximately 180,000 additional units."

* Replacement passenger tires. "The sluggish economy, coupled with consumers looking to extract more miles out of their tires, contributed to a decline of 4.3 million units in 2009, representing a 2.2% decrease for a total of 189.5 million units."

"However, this sector is forecast to increase by nearly 1.7 million units in 2010 -- or approximately 1% as the measured economic recovery gains hold and the number of vehicle miles traveled increases."

* Replacement light truck tires. "This market segment realized a drop of 6.5%, or 1.9 million units, for a total of 27.5 million units in 2009 as soft economic conditions impacted small commercial vehicles.

"Given that the number of vehicles for this market remains steady, the soft economic conditions and fewer vehicle miles travelled will contribute to another nearly 1% decline in replacement LT tire shipments in 2010 to approximately 27.3 million units."

* Replacement medium/wide-base/heavy on-highway commercial truck tires. "This market declined to 12.9 million units in 2009, a decrease of nearly 2 million units or 13.2%.

"However, this market will realize an increase of approximately 600,000 units in 2010 as the economy picks up, and more goods are shipped."

The RMA's Tire Market Analysis Committee is comprised of tire market professionals representing the major United States tire manufacturers, which account for more than 90% of all U.S. tire shipments. Their analyses and forecasts of current and future industry activity include a review of RMA tire industry and economic data, government trade figures, and vehicle sales and production.

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