NASHVILLE, Tenn. - While the Firestone brand takes a beating over the recalls of its Wilderness AT and ATX and ATX II-model tires, its sister brands - Bridgestone and Dayton - are nowhere near the controversy.
Even though the same company manufactures all three brands, they are produced on different lines - usually in different factories - to different specifications for different customers. Bridgestone Corp. of Japan purchased Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. in 1988 and created the U.S. holding company, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., headquartered in Nashville.
At that time, Bridgestone began what became a $1.9 billion investment in increasing North American capacity and modernizing Firestone's older plants.
Bridgestone invested about $1.5 billion in the U.S. company, and more recently spent another $400 million upgrading machinery.
It also opened a new Bridgestone truck tire plant in Warren County, Tenn., and a $450 million Firestone tire plant in Aiken County, S.C., that opened in 1999.
The Aiken County plant builds Firestones and Bridgestones, but the products are made using different production equipment. To a small extent, Bridgestone began introducing its Japanese production preferences to Firestone's plants.
The key differences between the U.S. and Japanese processes were that Bridgestone tire plants run on a just-in-time basis, with more labor outsourced. And Firestone traditionally has relied on a more vertically integrated system, in which plant employees built tires virtually from scratch.
While Bridgestone has changed some of the work rules of the older Firestone plants and introduced efficiency gains, the Firestone production sites still tend to be less modern than Bridgestone plants.
Bridgestone serves as the high-end brand, Firestones are mid-market and Daytons are low end.