TOKYO (Sept. 15, 2003)—As the investigation continues into a massive fire that burned in a Bridgestone Corp. tire plant in Japan for nearly two days, the financial impact and timeline for restarting production still are unclear.
In a statement Sept. 12, the tire maker said it was waiting for authorization by local officials to resume production at the Tochigi plant. A fire broke out in the plant's mixing area Sept. 8, was contained Sept. 9 and extinguished the next day. Bridgestone CEO Shigeo Watanabe said preparations were under way to resume production, pending the completion of safety inspections. No further updates were provided, though various media reported the plant had not resumed production Sept. 15.
Kunihiro Matsumoto, an analyst with Deutsche Bank Group, estimated Sept. 10 the fire at the Tochigi plant could cause a loss of about $25.7 million for a one-month operation stoppage, assuming the plant generates annual sales of $685 million to $856 million. He said final results may vary.
“In no way do we see the fire dealing Bridgestone a prolonged or fatal blow,” Mr. Matsumoto said in a report.
Costs to rebuild the plant and replace equipment could cost $85 million, according to a Reuters report. Bridgestone/Firestone officials in the U.S. could not confirm that figure.
Bridgestone said it is coordinating delivery schemes with its customers in the automotive industry to minimize disruptions to production.
The plant produces passenger, light truck and truck/bus radial tires as well as hard urethane foam and other materials. It has an estimated tire capacity of 22,000 units per day, according to Tire Business statistics. The plant employs 856 workers.
Officials at Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire do not expect major supply problems in the North American market, particularly for truck/bus tires.