The president of the Hauts-de-France region has labelled Bridgestone’s planned closure of its Béthune tyre manufacturing plant “brutal” and a “premeditated assassination.” For good measure, Xavier Bertrand added “we are dealing with cynics and liars” in his strongly-worded response to Bridgestone’s announcement. In a joint statement with the French government, Bertrand’s Hauts-de-France Region called on the Bridgestone group to “assume its responsibilities,” alleging that the company’s divestment from and allocation of low-margin tyres to the Béthune plant over the last decade has “automatically” led to its deficit in competitiveness.
The union representing employees at a closure-threatened Continental factory has responded angrily to the decision, accusing Continental of “sacrificing” a “profitable tyre plant” as part of its savings programme. The IG BCE union particularly doesn’t understand the logic behind this step as it claims the tyre business in Aachen has achieved “double-digit” profit margins over the years and even operated in the black during the corona lockdown.
Bridgestone has announced its plan to close its Bethune plant in France. The manufacturer said that the measure is being used to reduce production overcapacity and to improve cost efficiency. The proposal could impact 863 employees. Bridgestone added that it is “fully aware of the social consequences of this project and is committed to using all means at its disposal to define support plans for each employee.” The earliest the closure would take place is the second quarter of 2021. Bridgestone’s presence in France would continue through sales and retail operations, in which it employs about 3,500, the company said.
Employees at Continental AG’s Aachen, Germany tyre factory were informed that the plant will be closed by the end of 2021. According to the German Handelsblatt newspapter, more than 1,800 employees will be affected by the closure. The announcement comes two weeks after Continental announced cost-cutting plans aiming at saving 1 billion euros by 2023.
Continental has reported second quarter 2020 consolidated group sales of 6.620 billion euros. This equates to -39.8 per cent drop year-on-year. Pre-tax profits (EBIT) came in at -9.6 per cent of sales (-636 million euros). However, sales in the Rubber Technologies division, which includes tyres, were 2.962 billion euros and the adjusted EBIT margin was 1.2 per cent (around 36 million euros). Thus, Continental’s tyre business has managed to remain profitable despite the obvious pressures of the coronavirus context.
After a period of sweeping announcements by European automakers that they are halting production at European plants for several weeks, Calum MacRae, automotive analyst at GlobalData, has quantified potential effects on industry forecasting.
Michelin has confirmed that it has decided to close its tyre production facilities “located in the European countries most affected” countries for at least one week. Tyres & Accessories understands this means Michelin’s factories in Italy (Cuneo and Alessandria), Spain (Lasarte, Vitoria, Aranda de Duero and Valladolid) and France (Cataroux, Les Gravanches, Le Puy-en-Velay, Roanne, Bourges, Montceau, Cholet, La Roche-sur-Yon, Golbey, Avallon, Montagny, Vannes, Joué-Lès-Tours and Troyes
The PSA group’s Executive Board and crisis unit have stopped vehicle production at its European factories until 27 March 2020. The temporary closure move takes effect between 16 and 19 March, according to the following schedule: