Domestic Tire Industry Sees 'Resurgence in Growth'

Dec. 2, 2020

The domestic tire industry experienced a “resurgence in growth” through the third quarter, Rick Brennan, vice president of strategic planning for Sumitomo Rubber North America, said during the company’s Dec. 1 virtual dealer forum.

The rebound “moved us in a better position versus last year,” said Brennan.

During the month of October, the passenger tire segment was down 5.6%, but the light truck and medium truck tire segments each climbed 1.3%.

However, through the first 15 days of November, “we’ve seen kind of a different picture,” said Brennan. “We see the market flattening out a bit… not the big growth we saw happening in June, July and August.”

Through the first half of last month, the passenger tire and light truck tire segments were down 14.2% and 2.4%, respectively. But TBR was a bright spot, generating a recovery of 8.4%.

“All of this is happening at a time when vehicle miles traveled are below last year. We’re down 14.6% from the miles traveled in 2019 and even September was down 8.6% over last year.”

Brennan said the rebound in vehicles miles traveled appears to have “flattened. But we’re still seeing growth in the marketplace.”

Canadian perspective

The light truck tire segment in Canada enjoyed a “strong” September and October, said Brennan. However, Canada's passenger tire segment was down 4.2%.

“TBR is lagging behind” in Canada and has not experienced “the big gain we’ve had in the U.S.”

Overall, the Canadian market “is rebounding like the U.S., but maybe not as strong on the commercial side,” said Brennan.

Truck tire upswing

The U.S. medium truck tire segment is doing decidedly better and experienced its best month since March 2020 this past October, according to Bob Klimm, SRNA’s director of TBR sales.

“The total market - when you put in non U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association members - was down 1%,” he said.

“Our new products had a nice contributing factor to (SRNA’s)  growth and accounted for 8% of sales over the last 2 months. We’ve increased production orders into our main plant" in Buffalo, N.Y., which is in the process of boosting its capacity.

“In addition to that, we’re supplementing our inventory with (products) from Japan."

Klimm cited rebounds in manufacturing and construction as two reasons behind truck tire segment growth in the U.S.

Manufacturing grew by 3.9% during October and the construction industry rebounded by 12% that month, led by the non-residential sector.

Truck tonnage also bounced back - albeit slightly - during October with a 2.7% bump.