Signs of Life, or Rose-Colored Glasses? - Tire Review Magazine

Signs of Life, or Rose-Colored Glasses?

So, how’s the tire market doing? Wish I could tell you definitively. Wish I could say anything definitively about any segment of the market.

Tire sales in some markets remain tight, others are up over last year. There is no consistent plus or minus that can be applied; it all matters, I guess, on where you are and what your customers want to do.

But there are some signs of life.

Our monthly Business Barometer survey of tire dealers across the U.S. showed March retail tire sales up some 3% vs. the same month last year. That came after a strong February, which saw a year-to-year improvement of 3%.

March’s service sales, too, were up 3% year-over-year, capping February’s 2% jump.

True, these are positives – and the first strong signs our Business Barometer has seen in nearly two years. Enough to call it a real trend? Well…..

Another positive might be drawn from a recent Groupe Michelin report on what it sees in key global markets – OE and replacement.

Through February, the normally cautious Michelin saw marked strengthening on consumer and commercial tire sales – and, yes, that included North America.

For the month of February, Michelin saw industry-wide year-over-year growth in OE passenger/light truck tire sales: Europe up 47%, North America up 54.4%, China up 49.9%. OE commercial tire sales for the period fell off 3.1% in Europe, but vaulted 12.8% in North America, 67.7% in Brazil, 68.5% in Japan and 21.3% in China.

Year-to-date, the European OE market decreased 12.2%, while market growth in the other four markets was 8.5%, 54.5%, 61.4% and 15.8%, respectively.

The replacement side also saw year-to-year improvement, according to Michelin. Passenger/light truck was up 1% in Europe, 9.9% in North America and 1.2% in China. Year-to-date, replacement market growth for these three markets was pegged at 3.4%, 5.1% and 21.6%, respectively.

Europe’s commercial vehicle replacement tire market fared better with a 32.1% increase in February. The North American market grew 15.3%, while Brazil was up 28.2%, Japan was up 20.6% and China grew 14.9% compared to February 2009. YTD, Europe’s commercial tire replacement market grew 28%, while North America is up 14.8%, Brazil up 37.9%, Japan up 11.2% and China up 12%.

Even if these figures are overly ambitious, it’s still a nice start to the year, and it’s great to see an up-trend in every market. But, I’d like to see two more positive months – even slightly positive – before declaring this a true trend.

I am hoping, though!

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