AKRON-At least two U.S.-based tire makers-Michelin North America Inc. and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.-are turning to outside sources to supply a portion of their production needs. Michelin's Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Co. is buying tires from General Tire to offset a possible production decrease triggered by shift changes at its four U.S. plants.
And in a similar arrangement, BFS is buying tires from Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. to meet increased demand.
Spokesmen for BFS and Cooper confirmed the existence of their agreement but declined to reveal the quantity or type of tires to be supplied. However, a published report said Cooper will furnish BFS with 400,000 tires of an unspecified type.
Meanwhile Uniroyal Goodrich has made an arrangement to purchase some ``entry-level, broad-line products'' from General, a General spokesman said.
The tires are undisclosed private labels, and the contract is the first of its kind between the two tire makers, the spokesman said.
A Uniroyal Goodrich spokeswoman said the company hasn't determined the number of tires it is purchasing.
``We will continue the arrangement with General until the Uniroyal Goodrich plants can get up to speed,'' the spokeswoman said, adding that shift changes can slow down operations at plants, leading to decreases in production.
The Michelin subsidiary already has switched its Opelika and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Ardmore, Okla., plants to continuous operation. Uniroyal Goodrich's Fort Wayne, Ind., factory will go to a 24-hour schedule in mid-July.
``They had experienced a drop in production at Opelika when they went from four to five shifts,'' said Herbert Anderson, secretary-treasurer of Local 715 of the United Rubber Workers in Fort Wayne.
``(Uniroyal Goodrich) doesn't anticipate a big decrease here. They told us (production) would go down, but not that much,'' Mr. Anderson said.
However, the union believes the switch will reduce tire production more than U.G. Tire contends. ``It wouldn't surprise me if the plant had a significant drop in production for a period of months,'' Mr. Anderson said.
As for General, at least one analyst believes the move indicates the firm has too much capacity.
``General obviously is hurt by having a relatively low operating rate,'' said analyst Harry Millis of Fundamental Research Inc. ``(General) has lost its market share in the private label area.''