Tires North American Market Overview: Industry Snapshot

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Recent trends are showing an uptick in LT sales, both here in Canada, and in the U.S.

A combination of declining retail prices, and a slight slowdown in miles driven, are pointing to a decline in automotive retail sales, according to automotive industry analyst Nathan Shipley of the NPD Group. Shipley sees ride-sharing, car-sharing services and autonomous vehicles as “industry disruptors” further down the road.

There are also some positive signs. This time last year, vehicle miles driven were on a record pace close to 3.2 trillion miles, even though the three percent growth rate reportedly decreased as the year wound down. One bright spot is the drive toward high-value-added (HVA) tires—those 17 inches and larger—will require more production capacity to serve the North American market. “Approximately four new tire plants will be needed over the next five years,” predicts Shipley.

Truck tire growth

Tire dealer inventories were overflowing to start 2016. Demand took care of that, but a mid-year glut curtailed shipments. When the year was over, passenger tire sales were good, but passenger tire shipments were down slightly, from 205.9 million units to 205 million. Original equipment shipments were also down, from 49.1 million to 49 million.

Well stocked or not , tire dealers could sell all the Light Truck (LT) tires they wanted: Shipments were up nearly seven percent, from 29 million to 31 million units. Tariffs reduced U.S. consumer tire imports from China drastically. As a result, overall imports were down slightly, although other countries almost picked up the slack. The new tire export leader to the U.S. is Thailand, followed by South Korea, China, and Canada.

Larger rim diameters

Large rim diameters are the new normal for passenger tire sizes. Defined as 17-inch sizes and above, they represent 56.4 percent of all 351 sizes. Wal-Mart Stores still advertise smaller sizes.

For example, Walmart has been offering the Goodyear Eagle RS-A in size 195/60R15, still the ninth most popular size, for at least five years. In that time, the price has steadily dropped from $65 U.S. in 2011 to $54 U.S. in 2016.

Its $37.50 U.S. Douglas Xtra-Trac II in size 155/80R13 is no longer available, but the size has not disappeared. It is now known as the Douglas All-Season ($40.91U.S.) on walmart.com. Eight other lines also are available in size 155/80R13, ranging from the Evergreen EH22 ($28.70) to the Cooper Trendsetter SE ($70.95).

Popular Sizes

According to 2017 stats from TRAC (Tire and Rubber Association of Canada), below are the most popular tire sizes listed in order of popularity: 225/65R17, LT265/70R17, 265/70R17, LT245/75/R16, LT275/70R18, LT225/75R16, 235/65R17, 275/55R20, LT275/65R18, 215/70R16, 245/60R18.

Manufacturer Sales

U.S./Canadian leaders in new tire sales (in billions of U.S. dollars ) 2016/2015:

• Bridgestone Americas $7.7/$7.9

• Goodyear Tire & Rubber $6.7/$6.9

• Michelin North America $6.5/$6.7

• Continental Tire the Americas $2.9/$2.9

• Cooper Tire & Rubber $2.1/$2.2

• Hankook Tire America $1.6/$1.2

• Toyo Tire Holdings of America $1.4/$1.4

• Yokohama Tire $1.1/$1.2

• Sumitomo Rubber Industries $.8/$.8

• Pirelli Tire North America $.5/$.6

• Kumho Tire USA $.5 /$.6

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