Four years ago Südrad Autoräder GmbH und Co. KG had to call in the receiver, who in the meantime sold the aluminium wheel division of the company. Now the steel wheel production at Ebersbach has also found a new owner in the guise of Mefro Räderwerk Ronneburg GmbH. In 1999 Südrad with 600 employees will produce approximately five million car steel wheels as well as steel wheels for trucks and light trucks. The turnover is given as 140 million marks, and Südrad is back in the black now that the restructuring measures have been completed. Mefro had its origins in a wheel combine of the former GDR and now has an annual production of approximately two million steel wheels for agricultural and construction site vehicles as well as for industrial vehicles and fork lift trucks. With a workforce of about 220 employees Mefro has an annual turnover of approximately 60 million marks.
The Technic Group - at one time the worlds biggest passenger car tyre retreader - is the latest company to succumb to the fall in demand for car retreads. Hopes that the Technic group would be sold as a going concern proved to be unfounded. The Administrative Receiver said: Since we were appointed, the company has continued to accumulate losses. Despite some early indications of interest, no offers were received for the business and we can see no realistic prospect of receiving an offer against a difficult background in the retread market. As a result we have no option but to close the business. 200 of the 250 employees have received redundancy notices and the Receivers will seek to dispose of the companys assets.
Goodyear revises wrong decision regarding the Gadsden Plant in Alabama
The company anticipated a reduction in demand and took the decision to cut most of the production capacity of its Gadsden plant. Only a few months later Goodyear is forced to immidiately employ 500 - 550 workers to meet the demand for Goodyear tyres in the USA.
With a fuel consumption of less than three litres per hundred kilometres (approximately 95mpg) the new Volkswagen Lupo TDI sets new standards. The reduced consumption has been achieved by a combination of various measures; the use of light-weight forged wheels by Fuchs is for instance a contributory factor to the reduced weight of the vehicle. On the tyre side, Bridgestone/Firestone has scored in original equipment with the B 381 Ecopia, size 155/65 R14 75T. The name, made up from ecology and utopia is also the statement of a programme, which will exploit experience gained in the construction of this tyre for future Bridgestone/Firestone products. The tyre manufacturer achieved weight reduction by using aramid instead of steel in the belt and light-weight polyester in the casing. Thanks to its clever rubber compound formula the tyre’s rolling resistance has also been optimised and at the same time has fulfilled the tyre manufacturer’s ecologically motivated desire for noise reduction. As an equivalent for the winter season Bridgestone recommends the WT 12 tread pattern.
Three years of litigation about breach of styling rights and unauthorised copying in accordance with paragraph 1 UWG (law on unfair competition) have ended with a verdict in favour of BBS by the Federal Court of Justice, so announces the wheel manufacturer. BBS had sued an Italian manufacturer for producing and distributing an imitation of the BBS RX wheel and for damages. Following the defendant’s reply, an expert opinion on the design and a hearing at the provincial law court in Frankfurt the BBS case was to a large extent conceded: The wheel made by the Italian producer was declared to be an imitation of the new BBS RX wheel, which is new, original and therefore protected. There followed an appeal, several postponements and the exchange of a number of documents at the higher provincial court in Frankfurt, and then this verdict: The appeal of the Italian manufacturer was rejected; there was no serious doubt that it was a copy, and appeal to the Federal Court was not allowed. The costs have to be borne by the appellant. Therefore the verdict of the higher provincial court in Frankfurt of 19th November 1998 has the force of law.
BFGoodrich Sends New “All Terrain T/A” into the Race
Recently BFGoodrich had chosen Dubai (United Arab Emirates) as the venue for the introduction of the latest 4x4 BFGoodrich tyre. The new tyre is the All Terrain T/A for mixed application on and off the road, a new/further development of its predecessor, Radial All Terrain T/A which will now be completely replaced by the new model in all sizes, with some more sizes added. This demonstrates the importance BFGoodrich attaches to the All Terrain tyres, a regularly updated line, which has sold well for more than 20 years. The ‚All Terrain T/A‘, along with ‚Mud Terrain T/A‘ and ‚Long Trail T/A‘ are some of our most popular 4x4 models, explained Matthias Utzinger, Kléber’s off-road product manager. The new T/A will be the most generally useful tyre in the product range, conceived for mixed applications, i.e. for light off-road work but also for the road and for drivers keen on sporty driving, without ever losing sight of its use as a work-horse. The forecast for Germany is approximately 100,000 new registrations for off-road cars in 1999, meaning more than 750,000 vehicles of that kind on the road in 2000, according to the tyre manufacturer’s market data, with 4x4 tyre replacement sales amounting to about 700,000. Thus the revised/new All Terrain T/A may well lead to BFGoodrich getting a larger slice of the cake.
Nissan has confirmed that it is currently producing 1.35 million cars, which is 10 per cent less than last year. This amounts to the companys seventh recorded loss in the past eight years. C.O.E. Carlos Ghosn, who engineered the turnaround for Michelin in North America, is currently preparing a restructuring plan which will entail the loss of 21,000 jobs, or 14% of its worldwide workforce, by the year 2003. In the US, 1,000 jobs (10%) will go by March 2001, while in Japan, there are plans to close four factories.
Good news for motorists: Tyre prices are coming down fast, especially in popular sizes. So far we have heard of price reductions of up to 15 p.c. compared with the previous season. Unknown second and third lines of large groups compete for the bargain hunter with rock-bottom prices.
Two men were jailed for eight months at Southend Crown Court in Essex yesterday, for illegally dumping 2,000 truck tyres. The case was brought by The Environment Agency and is believed to be the first time such a conviction has produced a jail sentence in this country.
September is show time in Frankfurt. This year we have just seen the IAA for cars and motorcycles, the 58th such event. Almost 1,200 exhibitors from 43 countries displayed the whole width and breadth of automotive progress on 225,000 square metres of indoor and outdoor exhibition space. The theme of this year’s exhibition, Auto: Treffpunkt Zukunft (Car - Meeting-Place: The Future) must also be understood as the industry’s programme: Car manufacturers alone offered 51 world premières, eight European and 38 German premières, not counting the numerous innovations of vehicle component suppliers, the motor manufacturers’ development partners. Apart from new production-line cars, futuristic concept cars, motorcycles and special vehicles Frankfurt showed trailers, parts and accessories, tuning products, aids for vehicle maintenance, protective clothing, traffic guidance and information systems. Tyre manufacturers with IAA stands of their own were Michelin, Continental, Dunlop and Pneumant. The second part of the 58th IAA - the commercial vehicle side - will take place from 23rd to 30th September 2000 under the theme Nutzfahrzeuge: Für alle auf Achse (Commercial Vehicles: For Everybody on the Move) and also be held at Frankfurt/Main. The organisation will also be in the hands of the Association of the Motor Manufacturing Industry (VDA).
In an interview with the rather left-wing daily paper Liberation Edouard Michelin gave his comment on the so-called Michelin Affair. On 8th September the group reported a 20 p.c. rise in its half-yearly profits while at the same time declaring that it wanted to shed 7,500 employees in European factories within three years. The Michelin boss attributes the unusually fierce public reaction, by French politicians in particular, to insufficient public discussion. It has to be possible, he argued, to take the right entrepreneurial measures in time to achieve a rapid improvement in productivity, which is 15 to 20 p.c. below that of the group’s main competitors, Bridgestone and Goodyear. And the only way to do that, he claimed, is through accelerated growth on the basis of a new sales policy and through job cuts. Edouard Michelin reminded his critics that in the last twenty years the group had twice been faced with extinction, that it had needed to lose 25,000 employees in France and in spite of that had issued only 186 dismissal notices. Asked about the Lex Michelin (a change of law to accommodate the Michelin case, dealing with the application for state aid to facilitate social plans), Edouard Michelin pointed out that the group had indeed received a French state subsidy for its social plans in the past amounting to four or five billion francs, but that at the same time the French state had received 45 billion francs in social contributions, taxes and other levies. Today the group still makes 30 p.c. of total investments within France, he continued, and retains 30 p.c. of the production capacity in the country, although the domestic market takes only 15 p.c. of total sales. Though keen to dust off certain parts of the company, he said, he wants to preserve its culture, personality and customs. As the head of a family business he sees himself as permanently accountable and cannot afford not to make long-term plans, because he is only too well aware of having to defend his decisions also in five or ten years’ time. On the question of worldwide merger plans Edouard Michelin said that his company is in a position to play an active part. Our gaze is directed towards Asia. Michelin has a talent for growth.
In its last issue NEUE REIFENZEITUNG speculated about an agreement between Montupet and Michelin in the area of aluminium cast wheels. The talks seem to be on hold for the time being, because at the moment both partners have their hands full with orders. Montupet is currently doubling its capacity to 2.5 million cast wheels. Kronprinz, the Michelin subsidiary in Solingen, is able to cast 1.4 million wheels with the equipment already in place. In its search for a strategic alliance partner (without seeking a direct participation) Michelin has now found steel wheel manufacturer Meritor, which has factories in Mexico and Brazil. Meritor is a business division of Rockwell, the large supplier to the automotive industry, and is also known by the trade name Fumagalli. With an annual capacity of about 25 million steel and aluminium wheels Michelin is roughly double the size of Meritor. The strategic benefit for Michelin is not only the geographical location of the two Meritor factories, but above all the close relationship between the supplier Rockwell and Chrysler. The principal reason for the cooperation between M+M, however, was Renault’s decision to produce the Mégane also in South America with the same steel wheels as in Europe, where they are made by Michelin. To comply with local content requirements, the South American Mégane will have Meritor wheels.
Avon Rubber has blamed falling car production in the UK for a 40% drop in annual profits to £3.3 million. Direct sales of automotive and technical products to Ford and Rover fell £7.6 million to £27.1 million. Shares fell 12.5p to 455p.
The Fürstenwalde production base of Pneumant Reifen GmbH is under threat in the long term, Dr. Rainer Schieben, Commercial Managing Director, announced at the Pneumant head office in Fürstenwalde at the beginning of September. As early as this autumn the company will draw winter tyres from the Japanese production for cost reasons, and part of the summer tyre production will also be transferred to Japan. And, according to Schieben, the new owner, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, has already cut the production planning for the year 2000 by 200,000 tyres, which cannot be without repercussions on investment and employment. Schieben gave too high energy costs at Fürstenwalde as the reason for the problems. The current price per megawatt hour for the process temperature is roughly three times higher than in similar factories of the Dunlop parent company in Germany. By international comparison within the Goodyear group the high energy price has become even less justifiable. Pneumant employs a workforce of 550 plus 40 apprentices at the Fürstenwalde production base. 325 people are employed at the company’s second factory in Riesa. The tyre manufacturer is one of the few former GDR companies to have survived successfully. Thanks to an investment volume of 250 million marks since 1996 by the Dunlop parent company Pneumant possesses the most modern production facilities in Europe. In the car tyre replacement market the company is the clear market leader in the new federal states.