WASHINGTON (March 14, 2016) — The impact of the U.S.’s elevated import duties on passenger and light truck tires from China last year was pronounced — imports slid 53.2 percent in both cases — but nearly every tire not imported from China was replaced by a unit from other low-cost Asian sources, according to Tire Business’analysis of the 2015 U.S. Commerce Department data.
While shipments of passenger tires from China dropped more than 27 million units to 22.6 million units, imports jumped markedly from Thailand (up 67.3 percent); Indonesia (44.3 percent); South Korea (21.4 percent); Taiwan (18.8 percent); and Vietnam (up six-fold), the Commerce Department data reveal.
These Asian nations accounted for nearly 20 million more units collectively than in 2014. As many as four new tire plants came on stream in Indonesia and Thailand in the past couple of years, including factories opened in Thailand by China’s Shandong Linglong Tire Co. Ltd. and Zhongce Rubber Group Co. Ltd. and in Indonesia by Hankook Tire Co. Inc. and Maxxis International.
Qindao Sentury Tire Co. Ltd. is building a plant in Thailand as well, and Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. and Vee Rubber Co. Ltd. are expanding capacities significantly.
Chile and Mexico also boosted their exports to the U.S. by double digits — 25.3 and 15.4 percent, respectively.
Overall, imports were up 0.4 percent to a record 149.5 million units. When compared with the Rubber Manufacturers Association’s estimated replacement market shipments of 206 million units, imports represented nearly 73 percent.
However, “captive” imports — that is, shipments from countries where the major U.S. tire companies have manufacturing, such as Canada, Japan, Mexico, Germany, etc. — accounted for more than a quarter of imports.
Tire Business graphic/imageSummaries of the Commerce Department’s 2015 import trade data for passenger, light and medium truck tires.
The average declared customs value of a passenger tire last year was $51.03, down from $51.55 in 2014. The biggest drop among the leading trading nations was China’s, which fell 11.3 percent, or $4.06, to $31.90.
In the light truck tire category, imports fell 6.4 percent to 24.3 million units, led by China’s 53.2-percent plunge, to just shy of 3 million units.
By contrast, LT tire imports from Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Taiwan, Japan and Mexico were up by double digits.
Canada remained the No. 1 source of imported light truck tires, despite dropping 18 percent to 7.53 million units.
The average value of an imported light truck tire fell 4.5 percent, or $3.24, to $72.37, the Commerce Department data show.
Among the leading nations, Vietnam had the lowest average price, $53.51, and Taiwan the highest at $102.06.
In the truck/bus tire category imports rose for the third straight year and accounted for roughly 80 percent of aftermarket shipments, according a comparison of the Commerce Department and RMA data.
China remained by far the No. 1 source of imported truck/bus tires at 8.91 million units, up 6.3 percent over 2014, and accounting for nearly 62 percent of imports and roughly half of U.S. aftermarket shipments.
The average value of an imported truck tire in 2015 was $161.36, down from $172.16. The range of values among the 10 largest importing nations was from $120.22 for China to $318.63 for Italy.
In other major trade categories:
Imports of agricultural/implement tires rose 3.9 percent to 2.19 million units, with an average value of $132.03. China and India were tops in this category with 1 million and 645,550 units, respectively.
Imports of construction/industrial tires fell 8 percent to 2.62 million units, with an average value of $254.94. China, Sri Lanka and India were the top three exporters to the U.S., accounting for nearly 2 million units among them.
Imports of solid tires rose marginally to 5.07 million units, with an average value of $42.05. China and Sri Lanka dominate this category, with 2.56 million and 2.1 million units, respectively.
Imports of ST-type specialty trailer tires jumped 43.9 percent to 17.9 million units, with an average declared value of $15.18. China accounted for 15.7 million units, or 87.4 percent of imports. Taiwan accounted for 1.13 million units.
Imports of motorcycle tires rose 2.9 percent to 3.04 million units with an average value of $49.57. Top exporters were Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Indonesia.
Imports of aircraft tires were 268,936 units, with an average value of $405.
The U.S.-based tire makers turned up the wick a bit last year, expanding light and medium truck exports 11.7 and 33.9 percent, respectively, while passenger car tire exports slipped 5.3 percent.
Canada and Mexico dominate the export tables, accounting for 80 percent of car tire exports, 64 percent of light truck tires and 95 percent of medium truck tires.
Overall, the value of tires imported into the U.S. during 2015 fell 4.5 percent to $14 billion, while the value of exports dropped 15.6 percent to $4.33 billion, yielding a slightly higher trade deficit of $9.69 billion.
China, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Thailand are the U.S.’s largest trading partners in terms of tires, the U.S. running deficits with each.
The trade deficit with China last year was $2.77 billion, followed by Japan at $1.44 billion; South Korea, $1.39 billion; Thailand, $1.13 billion; Canada, $854 million; Indonesia, $670 million; and Taiwan, $458 million.
The U.S. had a trade surplus with Mexico last year, exporting $1.11 billion worth of tires and importing $760 million for a suplus of $351 million.