PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa — Bridgestone Corp. is closing its truck, farm and OTR tire plant in Port Elizabeth, citing the unprofitable nature of the 84-year-old factory's bias-ply manufacturing capacity.
The proposed move, the company said, is in line with its recently unveiled strategy to strengthen its core tire business through focus on premium, profitable growth segments.
The decision to close the plant, which will affect 252 employees, also is linked to the "effects of a shrinking economy and an influx of cheap imports compounded by rapid changes in the tire industry," according to Bridgestone South Africa (Pty) Ltd. (BSAF).
"The agricultural industry is shifting to radial tires, which are longer lasting, and the production of which is modern and high-speed."
Investment in a completely new radial tires plant would not be feasible in the current economic climate, the Midrand, South Africa-based company stated.
The decision does not affect the company's 49-year-old car and truck tire plant in Brits, South Africa, whose capacity is radial.
As part of the closing process, BSAF has initiated a "section 189" notice and a consultative process in compliance with South African employment regulations.
"All these technical and economic factors combined have created an environment in which the [Port Elizabeth] factory is unable to continue running, despite all efforts to sustain the operation," according to BSAF CEO Jacques Fourie, who said closing the plant is the "only viable option" to preserve the company's competitiveness and sustainable future for its employees, partners and stakeholders.