By Patrick Raleigh, ERJ On-line news editor
Paris-The arrival of a tyre disposal surcharge in France has caused a major spike in the replacement market during the first two months of 2004, according to the national polymer industry group SNCP (Syndicat National du Caoutchouc et des Polymers).
France's tyre industry is now responsible for collecting and disposing of all new tyres sold in the country since the end of 2003. These activities are managed by Aliapur-a firm jointly established by Bridgestone, Continental, Dunlop, Michelin, Kleber and Pirelli.
To finance its end-of-life tyre scheme, Aliapur imposed a levy on tyre makers, importers and distributors ranging from Euro2.6/tyre up to Euro180/tyre, depending on the size and type of tyre. The industry, in turn, moved to pass these costs on to customers with a series of price increases on 1 March.
According to SNCP estimates, advance buying in anticipation of these hikes, was the main factor behind an 11-percent rise in sales of passenger car tyres to 8.1 million units and 44 percent growth in sales of 4X4 tyres to 0.2 million units.
Replacement sales of light truck and heavy truck tyres also grew, by 17.6 percent (to 0.5 million units) and 24.5 percent (0.3 million units), respectively, the French group added in a 6 May report.
And, while sales fell back noticably in March, the underlying trend in the French market in the first quarter was positive, according to SNCP.
This view was confirmed by SNCP's analysis of the tyre market in Europe, covering the countries of the European Union, Switzerland and Norway. Sales in the region grew significantly in all sectors during the first quarter-though not as dramatically as in France.
European sales of passenger car tyres grew 5.6 percent to 41.2 million units, while 4X4 tyre sales rose 12.2 percent to 1.4 million units. Light truck sales, meanwhile, grew 9.6 percent to 3 million units and heavy truck tyre sales by 7.3 percent to 2.3 million units.