SALEM, Va. (Dec. 11, 2000)—Senior engineers from Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. are coming to the Japanese tire maker´s only U.S. plant this month to examine the facility´s operations and see where efficiency can be improved.
But a Yokohama Tire Corp. official said any changes made in production at the Salem radial passenger and light truck tire factory are unrelated to reported financial troubles at the company.
Dan Hunter, Yokohama Tire vice president and general manager of consumer products, said the Tokyo personnel will act as consultants, offering advice and direction for ways to improve the U.S. operations.
Since Yokohama Rubber took over the Salem plant as part of its Mohawk Rubber Co. purchase in 1989, the parent company has been active and instrumental in changes, he said.
The Salem plant makes Yokohama-brand and several associate and private brand tires.
"It´s the most complex tire plant in the U.S.," Hunter said. "We make a lot of brands and have many varied operations there."
A Nov. 29 report from Bloomberg News Service quoted Yokohama Managing Director Keimei Kiyoura as saying the company would "overhaul the (Yokohama Tire) unit" and focus on "restructuring in our manufacturing operations" in the U.S.
But Mr. Hunter said there is no major restructuring planned in Salem, and any modifications could be small in scope.
No management changes or employee cutbacks are planned, he said.
The Bloomberg story also quoted Mr. Kiyoura as saying Yokohama Tire lost $12 million in the current fiscal year´s first half, which ended Sept. 30. The company expects to lose about $30 million for the full year, the report said.
Mr. Hunter would not confirm those results, but attributed some of the company´s problems to those commonly seen around the tire industry—rising costs, especially from prices of raw materials such as oil. Selling prices for tires have not kept up, he said.