The messages, at least as we near the fourth quarter, seem mixed.

One on hand, we read numbers that we reveal in a recent story on imports: Consumer and commercial tire imports have dropped nearly 24% and 15%, respectively, according to data we recently gleaned. That is far worse than what the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA) forecast — declines of 15% and 5%, respectively.

Then on the other hand, we hear stories of business booming in tire dealerships across the country, even as the COVID-19 pandemic surges in some areas.

Eric Gill, who made quite a splash this month with his acquisition of 10 Vianor stores in New England to his Gills Point S Automotive & Service business, told Tire Business that sales at his 17 Oregon-based stores are up, year-to-date, both in retail and commercial, and that the trend is for that to continue.

Outside of the March/April headwind, he said, June, July and August have been “super strong.”

Other dealers tell us their bays remain full and business is breaking records.

There’s no doubt miles traveled continues to increase, as the stir-crazy population ventures to drivable destinations. And the median age of cars on the road is increasing, while consumers keep their vehicles longer as the economic uncertainly swirls around them.

All good news for tire dealers and tire manufacturers.

It remains to be seen what effect the plant shutdowns had on the market. Some entities report shortages; others say it’s business as usual.

One expert told us that he expects tire prices to jump 20% as the market adjusts.

With a contentious election and a possible second wave of the coronavirus looming, things could turn sour fast.

One message seems clear: It continues to be a good time to be in the tire business.

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