Tire shipments are projected to decline by more than six percent this year compared to 2007 with a further one percent decline predicted for 2009, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
Total tire shipments were below 300 million for the first time since 1997 when shipments were 290 million units.
The decrease in tire shipments reflects the sharp downward revisions in the domestic economic conditions predicted for both the consumer and commercial sectors. Overall, the combined OE and replacement tire shipments for 2008 light vehicle and truck categories are anticipated to decrease by more than 20 million units to approximately 290 million total shipments compared to the 310 million total shipments in 2007.
A further slight decline of approximately 3 million total units to nearly 287 million total units is anticipated for 2009 as an economic rebound is unlikely to occur until the latter half of the year.
RMA's Tire Market Analysis Committee forecast for key categories and their respective segments for 2008 include:
- Original Equipment Light Truck (LT) Tires: Consumer demand for vehicles with higher fuel economy, a shift in vehicle fitments to P-Metric passenger tires and market share increases by import vehicle manufacturers have combined to significantly impact light truck vehicles fitted with LT tires. As a result, RMA forecasts a decrease of approximately 34 percent in 2008 for a total of 2.9 million OE units, representing a 1.5 million unit decrease from 2007's total. For 2009, another 100,000 unit decrease is anticipated owing to the slow economic recovery and its impact on the commercial sectors that utilize light truck vehicles.
- Original Equipment Medium/Wide-Base/Heavy On-Highway Commercial Truck Tires: For 2008, this category is predicted to decrease by approximately 16 percent to nearly 3.9 million units. This decrease is attributed to the larger than anticipated economic slowdown in the commercial sector. This will continue into 2009 and as a result, RMA forecasts a further decrease of approximately 8 percent or 300,000 units for a total of 3.6 million units. Given this protracted economic downturn, the expected pull-forward effect of truck sales into 2009 owing to anticipated changes in EPA regulations in 2010 has been discounted.
- Replacement Light Truck Tire: The forecast for this market segment is a 4.5 million unit decrease, or nearly 13 percent, to about 29 million units in 2008. Although the number of vehicles for this market remains steady and largely represented by small commercial vehicles, declining economic conditions and fewer miles driven will contribute to a further projected 4 percent decline in replacement LT tire shipments in 2009.
- Replacement Medium/Wide-Base/Heavy On-Highway Commercial Truck Tires: RMA forecasts a decline to approximately 15.4 million units in 2008, a decrease of nearly 1.2 million units or 7.1 percent over 2007. The market will realize another decrease of 300,000 units in 2009 as fewer goods will be transported as a result of the economic slowdown and protracted recovery.