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What I Can See…

…is not much. With all of the financial world fiasco, I have been asked numerous times what I thought the future would bring.

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To tell the truth, I still don’t have a firm gauge.

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Just when I think we might be getting close to bottom something else pops up, somewhere else in the world, that makes me wonder if bottom can be found.

More hopeful analysts see mid-2009 as the point when things will start to perk up. Others point to 2010. I’m not sure if half-full or half-empty is the way things are headed, I just want to find the glass!

Forecaster CSM Worldwide is predicting that 2009 will be the worst year for the auto industry in nearly three decades. CSM is expecting just 11.5 million vehicles to be sold in the U.S. next year, well off from the 14-15 million-level consider barely survivable.

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Trying to draw a correlation between oil prices and pump prices is senseless. The stock markets remain as fickle as a teenager, and have proved no yardstick to trust. Unemployment is rising fast, now pushing 7% nationwide, and may well reach 8% before too long. The incoming administration is sounding dire warnings…and they haven’t even gotten the keys yet!

Closer to home, fleets are slashing truck purchase plans, virtually killing any OE tire growth there, and pointing to fewer goods being shipped. The commodity metals markets have gone soft, and mine operations are slashing costs faster than they can strip a mountain. The oil sands up north are losing luster, all of which points to a downturn in the OTR markets. And we all know where consumer tire is heading.

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I just don’t have a firm grasp, and I don’t think anyone does. Still too much finger-pointing going on, and very little in the way of reasoned approaches to targeting and fighting the problem.

The safest think I can say is this: Baring a substantial turnabout, the tire industry we see in 2010 will not look anything like the one we have now. Consolidation and worse will take a toll. How much is anyone’s guess.

If you have comments to share, send to me at [email protected]

– Jim Smith

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