Tyre shipments in the US are projected to decline by more than 6% year on year in 2008 with a further 1% decline predicted for next year, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association.

Total tyre shipments this year were below 300m for the first time since 1997 when shipments were 290m units.

The decrease is due "to the sharp downward revisions in domestic economic conditions predicted for both the consumer and commercial sectors," the association said.

"Overall, the combined OE and replacement tyre shipments for 2008 light vehicle and truck categories are anticipated to decrease by more than 20m units to approximately 290m total shipments compared to the 310m total shipments in 2007.

"A further slight decline of approximately 3m total units to nearly 287m total units is anticipated for 2009 as an economic rebound is unlikely to occur until the latter half of the year."

The RMA expects original equipment passenger tyre volume will fall by over 14% to approximately 39m units this year as domestic vehicle production continued to fall.

"A further decrease of approximately 3% is expected for 2009 owing to a delayed economic recovery and continued market share gains for light vehicle imports," it said.

Consumer demand for vehicles with higher fuel economy, a shift in vehicle fitments to P-Metric passenger tyres and market share increases by import vehicle manufacturers have combined to significantly affect sales of light trucks with LT tyres so the RMA has forecast a drop of about 34% in 2008 to 2.9m OE      units this year, down 1.5m from 2007.

"For 2009, another 100,000 unit decrease is anticipated owing to the slow economic recovery and its impact on the commercial sectors that utilise light truck vehicles," it added.

Original equipment medium/wide-base/heavy on-highway commercial truck tyre demand this year is predicted to fall about 16% to almost 3.9m units due to the larger than anticipated economic slowdown in the commercial sector. This is seen continuing into 2009 so the RMA has forecast a further fall of about 8%, or 300,000 units, to 3.6m.

"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, it said.
The association forecast a 2.7% drop in replacement passenger car tyres to 198m units fir 2008 with no growth next year.

Replacement light truck tyre volume is seen falling 13% to about 29m units in 2008 with a further 4% decline in 2009.

Replacement truck tyres are expected to fall 7.1% to 15.4m units in 2008 and by a further 300,000 units next year as fewer goods will be transported as a result of the economic slowdown and protracted recovery.