MELKSHAM, England — Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. is considering phasing out production of car and light truck tires at its plant in Melksham, a move that would affect 300 employees at the former Avon Tyres plant Cooper has operated since 1997.
Cooper said it has entered a "consultation period" to explore ceasing light vehicle tire production at Melksham, which would remain the headquarters of Cooper Tire Europe's sales and marketing offices, its technical center and materials business.
Cooper said that the 133-year-old factory is not competitive, adding that it is the firm's highest cost production site and it is not economically feasible to expand or update the facility to meet Cooper's light vehicle tire needs.
The firm said it expects to continue production of Cooper- and Avon-branded motorsports and motorcycle tires at Melksham.
"We know the prospect of making positions redundant is difficult for our colleagues and the local community to consider," Jaap van Wessum, general manager of Cooper Tire Europe, said.
"Yet, for Cooper Tire Europe to thrive into the long-range future, remaining a large Melksham-based employer, and meeting our obligations, we must explore obtaining light vehicle tires from locations other than Melksham."
The decision is subject to consultation with the trade union representing workers at the plant. Cooper said it can source car and light truck tires from other sites within the firm's global manufacturing footprint, including its only other European factory, in Krusevac, Serbia.
"Pending consultation, if positions are made redundant, Cooper will remain committed to doing all we can to support those employees who may potentially be affected," Mr. van Wessum said.
"We will be consulting with our recognized trade union, Unite, and other employee representatives, and have arranged additional support for affected colleagues, which will be available throughout this process. In addition, we will work closely with Wiltshire Council and the Department for Work and Pensions to provide the best possible support to our colleagues and community."
In order for Cooper to be globally competitive, he added, it must be able to produce quality light vehicle tires in high volumes and at a competitive cost. Unfortunately, the Melksham site is an older, smaller facility that does not offer economies of scale.
Due to the factor's age and location in the center of town, Cooper said it believes it is not economically feasible to modernize or expand there for light vehicle tire production.
Cooper took over the plant as part of its 1997 acquisition of Avon Rubber P.L.C.