The incoming CEO of Bridgestone Americas Holding Inc. says his top priority will be to make the North American tire unit profitable.
Mark Emkes, a 30-year veteran of Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. and Bridgestone/Firestone, will succeed John Lampe on March 31.
Lampe, who led the company's survival and recovery from the effects of the Firestone Wilderness/ATX recalls of 2000/2001, is retiring.
Emkes, 50, is CEO of North American tire operations. He has held that job since September 2002.
Saying that it is "a privilege and an honor to be succeeding John at this time in the company's history," Emkes said there is "still a long way to go in our company's recovery plan. (But) our team under John's leadership has laid the groundwork for solid business growth in the future."
The Bridgestone/Firestone tire unit has been unprofitable since the corporation set it up as a business unit during the 2001 reorganization.
Some components of the unit are profitable, including its Chicago-based retail company, which operates 2,300 stores. But those results are erased by the money-losing U.S. tire manufacturing part of the business, a low-margin operation that is straddled with high legacy costs.
For Emkes to make the entire business unit profitable, he will face the challenge of making its manufacturing arm more profitable.
Lampe, 56, said he is retiring to spend more time with his family. He will remain on the Bridgestone Americas board of directors following his retirement. Lampe took over the top job of Bridgestone/Firestone in North America in October 2000 during the Firestone Wilderness/ATX recalls, stepping into the spotlight of congressional hearings and press conferences. Even though times were tough, Lampe said he didn't have difficulty deciding whether to accept the company's top job.
"There were no surprises," he said in late 2002. "At the time I knew it was going to be extremely difficult, but I also knew that it was something that I couldn't say 'no' to. I love this company. It's the only job I've ever had. I was told that if I didn't do it, I would always regret it."
Lampe succeeded Masatoshi Ono, who stepped down after seven years.
One of Lampe's first acts was to apologize to the families of all those killed or injured in accidents involving the company's tires.
Bruce Davis writes for Tire Business, a sister publication to Automotive News. Automotive News Staff Reporter Lindsay Chappell contributed to this report