Bridgestone Corp. plans to build a $400 million tire plant in the Southeast United States. The company hopes it will push the firm closer to supplying 20 percent of the world's tires and closer to North American dominance.
Bridgestone is looking at three or four sites, according to a spokesman for Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., its North American subsidiary. He declined to identify them, but he said the site will be announced around Aug. 1.
Construction of the new plant will begin immediately after the site is selected. Limited production with 300 to 400 workers will begin in spring of 1999. When fully operational in 2000, the facility will employ 800 persons and will produce 25,000 car and light-truck radial tires a day.
The announcement of the new plant, made July 14, follows last December's plan to invest $430 million to upgrade factories in North America.
Combined, the $830 million investments will hoist the firm's capacity in North America 33 percent, to 60 million from about 45 million tires per year.
'This plant is essential to the Bridgestone Group's goal of attaining 20 percent world market share by 2000 and to helping Bridgestone/Firestone successfully challenge for dominance in the United States,' said Bridgestone/Firestone CEO Masatoshi Ono.
The added capacity will enable Bridgestone/Firestone to reduce its imports from Japan. The new facility won't replace any Bridgestone/Firestone plants; all are operating at full capacity, the spokesman said.
'We've recorded four consecutive years of increases in market share, and 1997 is promising to be an outstanding year, even in a flat market,' he said. 'We cannot keep up with demand.'
The factory also will give the tire maker additional production space, something it urgently needs, he said.
'Bridgestone/Firestone is building because it is bursting at the seams,' said Saul Ludwig, an analyst with McDonald & Co. Securities Inc. 'It is in recovery mode and has a lot of momentum.'
Whether a union will represent employees at the new unit will be up to the workers, the Bridgestone/Firestone spokesman said.