TOKYO-The devastating earthquake that hit the Kobe-Osaka area Jan. 17 left at least four of Japan's tire makers concerned about damage to their factories in the area and about providing for approximately 2,000 workers at those plants. The manufacturing facility of Dunlop Tire Corp.'s parent, Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ltd., based in Kobe near the quake's epicenter, sustained severe damage. According to a Dunlop spokesman, ``The damage varies from department to department,'' and an assessment is presently under way.
The 85-year-old Kobe plant, which produces golf balls and motorcycle, industrial and go-kart tires, could take up to a year to rebuild.
Since tire making is a continuous process, the spokesman said, ``part of the damage assessment process is to determine if tire production capabilities are still possible.''
The Kobe complex includes a technical center, which suffered heavy damage, and a headquarters building, which was not severely damaged.
The Dunlop spokesman said the company is currently reviewing all production alternatives including Kobe and the rest of the company's worldwide organization, but anticipated no immediate impact on the majority of operations in the U.S., where Dunlop operates two tire factories.
``...Alternative sourcing avenues are currently being explored,'' he added.
Sumitomo Rubber's main Japanese tire plant, in Kyushu, continues to operate, according to the company.
Other tire makers in the area-Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd. in Itami, Inoue Rubber Co. in Ikeda, and Ohtsu Rubber Co. Ltd. in Izumi Ohtsu-reported minor damage and some work stoppages because workers were unable to get to the factories.
The quake, which measured 7.2 on the Richter scale, claimed more than 3,500 lives.
Michael Remington, an analyst for S.G. Warburg Securities (Japan) Inc., believed ``most companies will be back up and running in a couple of weeks' time....''