AKRON—Goodyear will expand capacity at three North American tire plants to build up radial production. The Akron-based tire maker has announced a $57-million expansion at its Valleyfield, Quebec, passenger tire plant and $55 million in radial expansions for 1999 at its Goodyear Canada plant in Napanee, Ontario, and two U.S. plants—Union City, Tenn., and Topeka, Kan.
Goodyear will spend $28 million for the Union City expansion, $15 million for the Topeka plant and $12 million for Napanee.
The firm will increase capacity in Valleyfield by 40 percent and add 400 new jobs, said John Orr, vice president of manufacturing for Goodyear's North American tire division.
The Valleyfield plant produces about 26,000 units per day, according to Tire Business' 1998 Global Tire Report. Construction will begin as soon as weather permits, Mr. Orr said.
Increasing radial capacity at the Union City facility is part of Goodyear's $40-million capital investment plan to bolster North American radial tire production, primarily for the light truck and sport-utility vehicle markets.
The expansion, which will include new equipment, will be completed by mid-2000, a Goodyear spokeswoman said. The company did not divulge the scope of the expansion.
The Topeka investment will increase the plant's medium radial truck tire capacity to meet growing demand, Mr. Orr said.
``We must increase our capacity to meet the needs of our customers and the strong demand for medium radial truck tires,'' he said. ``We are aggressively approaching new product development and continuously improving tire performance in this market.''
The firm will start bringing equipment into the plant in June, with the project slated for completion about a year later, the spokeswoman said.
The expansion at Topeka will affect radial capacity only, she said, and the project will mean the phaseout of some bias-ply lines.
Goodyear did not disclose the amount of the expansion, but the reduction in bias-ply output will mean little to no change in the facility's overall capacity, which stands at 8,100 radial and bias-ply truck, agricultural and earthmover tires per day.
In addition to the Valleyfield, Union City and Topeka projects, Goodyear is expanding radial passenger, light truck and p-metric tire production at its non-union Napanee plant. Both the Union City and Napanee facilities also produce passenger radial tires.
Capacity at the Union City plant, which has been operating since 1968, is about 55,000 radial tires per day, according to company data. `
This output makes it the world's third-largest tire plant from a capacity standpoint, according to Tire Business' Global Tire Report.
The expansion in Union City could have happened at Goodyear's Kelly-Springfield plant in Freeport, Ill., but the United Steelworkers of America there voted in January not to accept company-imposed scheduling changes that included 12-hour shifts and 42-hour workweeks.
As a result, 850 of 1,550 hourly and salaried employees at the plant will be laid off during 1999 while bias-ply production is phased out.
Goodyear said at the time the Freeport facility's schedules were inefficient. In exchange for accepting the proposed changes, the company said it would move all $40 million in radial production to Freeport.
But Local 745 in Freeport, wary of past investment promises it felt the company had not kept and unwilling to accept wage payment and work rule changes, rejected Goodyear's offer.
Later this year, Goodyear also will announce details on investments at its Danville, Va., truck and aircraft tire plant, which is in the midst of a five-year, $110 million expansion project.