Wednesday, September 20, 2000

Report: Troubled tire plant could close

The Associated Press

        NEW YORK — Bridgestone Corp. reportedly is considering suspending or ceasing operations at the Decatur, Ill., factory that made most of the Firestone tires being recalled for tread separation problems.

        Bridgestone Corp. chief executive Yoichiro Kaizaki also said top management may be reshuffled at its U.S. subsidiary Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. as a result of the problems, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

        The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating reports of at least 88 U.S. deaths and more than 250 injuries involving Firestone tires. Mr. Kaizaki, in his first interview since the Aug. 9 recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires by Bridgestone/Firestone, defended his company against the firestorm of criticism against it.

        “We are not admitting any defects with our tires,” he told the Journal.

        That appeared to conflict with testimony of Bridgestone/Firestone executive vice president John Lampe last week before the Senate Commerce Committee, in which he said the company had “made some bad tires and we take full responsibility for those.”

        The Journal story quoted Mr. Kaizaki as saying that while Bridgestone was aware of “variations” in the manufacturing process at the Decatur plant compared with those at other Bridgestone/Firestone plants, he didn't think the factory had production problems.

        But the Decatur plant, he said, might have to be temporarily shut down if improvements have to be made to equipment or facilities there.

        He said a permanent closure of the plant hasn't been ruled out. The possibility of such a move would depend on sales of Firestone tires in wake of the controversy.

        The Decatur plant employs about 1,800 people.

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- Report: Troubled tire plant could close

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