WASHINGTON — With the start of production last November at its car and light truck tire plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Goodyear returned to the ranks of tire makers in Mexico after a 26-year hiatus.
The new plant, Goodyear's ninth in North America, is the 10th new tire factory in Mexico. That total will grow to 11 before year-end, with the expected completion and commissioning of Group Michelin's $510 million car and light truck tire plant under construction in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico.
Goodyear's $550 million factory in San Luis Potosi is designed to supply both the original equipment and replacement markets in the U.S., Canada and Mexico with premium passenger and light truck tires, according to the company.
The 1-million-plus-sq.-ft. factory has an annual production capacity of 6 million tires, Goodyear said. Production initially includes the Eagle RSA and Sport, Fortera HL and Wrangler Adventure lines.
Goodyear said it hopes to have 1,000 employees at the San Luis Potosi plant by year-end, and it has no current plans to expand the facility.
On April 24, some of the workers at San Luis Potosi staged a one-day walkout. Production resumed the next day and has continued, according to Goodyear.
Union leaders at the facility did not authorize the strike, according to Goodyear. The company said it is talking to union leaders and plant associates to understand and address any remaining issues.
"Goodyear prides itself on maintaining strong working relationships with our associates and the unions that represent them," the company said.
Goodyear last produced tires in Mexico in 2001, when it shut its plant in Tultitlan, Mexico, citing high costs as the reason for its decision to shut the plant.
Michelin's new plant — its second in Mexico — is scheduled to begin operations in December with an annual capacity of 4.5 million to 5 million tires, the company said.
The 1.53-million-sq.-ft. Leon plant will produce primarily for OE customers, Michelin said. The plant will have about 1,000 employees when it opens, the tire maker said.
Michelin has no current plans to add to the projected size of the Leon plant or to invest further in Mexico, it said. The firm's other plant, a passenger/light truck tire facility that opened in 1987, is in Queretaro.
There are now seven tire companies with production in Mexico — Bridgestone Corp. (two plants), Continental A.G., Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Goodyear, Michelin, JK Tyre & Industries Ltd. (three plants) and Pirelli Tyre S.p.A.
The combined capacities for their plants exceeds 36 million units a year.
Mexico exported more than 13 million tires to the U.S. last year, valued at $839.6 million, according to U.S. Department of Commerce statistics. However, Mexico imported more — $1.2 billion worth — from the U.S., resulting in a trade deficit with the U.S. of $360 million.