2009 Tire Shipments to Drop Seven Percent

Rebound Anticipated in 2010 for Both Consumer and Commercial Sectors

For more information contact:
Dan Zielinski
(202) 682-4846

WASHINGTON, D.C.March 16, 2009 – Tire shipments are projected to drop more than 7 percent in 2009 following a nearly 9 percent drop in 2008, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association.

Total 2009 tire shipments are projected to decline approximately 21 million units to 261 million, a level last experienced in 1993 and approximately 60 million units fewer than the 321 million unit peak in 2000.

The decrease in tire shipments reflects the continued erosion of consumer confidence, higher unemployment, depressed auto sales, a decline in vehicle miles travelled and downward revisions in domestic economic conditions for both the consumer and commercial sectors.

A turnaround is projected to begin in 2010, in line with economic forecasts, where the industry is expected to realize a modest recovery nearing the 270 million unit level.

RMA’s Tire Market Analysis Committee forecast for key categories and their respective segments for 2008 include:

  • Original Equipment Passenger Tires: Decreases in domestic vehicle production led an 18.7 percent decline to 37.6 million units in 2008. Further decreases in domestic vehicle production will result in a nearly 22 percent decrease in 2009 shipments to approximately 29 million units. However, as the economy emerges from the recession in 2010, a rebound in vehicle sales and subsequent vehicle production is anticipated, which will result in a nearly 6 million unit recovery in this category. Note that this projection does not account for any changes to the auto industry as a result of recent federal intervention and/or the potential for bankruptcy.
  • Original Equipment Light Truck (LT) Tires: The combination of 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, will all continue to significantly impact light truck vehicles fitted with LT tires. As a result, this category experienced a decrease of 34.5 percent in 2008 for a total of 2.9 million OE units. For 2009, another 900,000 unit decrease is anticipated owing to the slower economic conditions and its impact on the commercial sectors that utilize light truck vehicles. However, a nearly 300,000 unit gain is anticipated in 2010.
  • Original Equipment Medium/Wide-Base/Heavy On-Highway Commercial Truck Tires: For 2008, this category decreased by 17.6 percent to 3.8 million units, attributable to the larger than anticipated economic slowdown in the commercial sector. Given the further decreases in economic activity forecasted for this sector in 2009, another nearly 30 percent decline to approximately 2.6 million units is anticipated. However, the economic rebound projected for 2010 along with pent up demand for vehicles is projected to result in a net gain of approximately 600,000 units increase in shipments.
  • Replacement Passenger Tire: The slowing economy, decline in vehicle miles traveled and consumers squeezing more miles out of their tires, all contributed to a 10.2 million unit decline, a decrease of 5 percent, for a total of 193.8 million units in 2008. Furthermore, given the expected soft economic conditions for 2009, the market will realize another decrease of nearly 3.5 percent, or approximately 7 million units, reaching a level of 187 million units — a figure that approximates passenger replacement shipments of a decade ago. Growth is anticipated to resume in 2010 with the replacement sector estimated to increase by approximately 3 million units, or less than 2 percent, mirroring the projected measured growth in the consumer sector.
  • Replacement Light Truck Tire: This market segment realized a drop of 14 percent, or 4.8 million units, for a total of 29.4 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 vehicle miles travelled will contribute to a nearly 8 percent decline in replacement LT tire shipments in 2009. However, an increase of nearly 6 percent is anticipated in 2010 in step with commercial economic forecasts.
  • Replacement Medium/Wide-Base/Heavy On-Highway Commercial Truck Tires: This market declined to 14.8 million units in 2008, a decrease of nearly 1.7 million units or 10.4 percent. The market will realize another decrease of 1.6 million units in 2009 as fewer goods will be transported as a result of the economic slowdown and protracted recovery. But given the economic rebound forecast for 2010, this market is expected to increase to nearly 14 million units.

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The Rubber Manufacturers Association is the national trade association for the rubber products industry. Its members include more than 80 companies that manufacture various rubber products, including tires, hoses, belts, seals, molded goods, and other finished rubber products. All RMA press releases are available at www.rma.org.

RMA’s Tire Market Analysis Committee is comprised of tire market professionals representing the major U.S. tire manufacturers, which account for over 90percent 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. TMAC develops its consensus view for tire demand from this process. The views expressed in this release are not the sole opinion of any one committee member, member company, or RMA representative.