As the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen across the globe, sickening at least 336,000 people and prompting business closures in an attempt to protect employees and stop the spread of the outbreak, which has claimed more than 15,000 lives as of March 23, the effects on global tyre makers is significant.
Goodyear closes plants
Goodyear on March 17 took steps to close its tyre manufacturing facilities in Europe. The next day it disclosed that it would phase out production at its North and South American facilities.
Goodyear operates 13 tire plants throughout the Americas, employing roughly 17,000 workers.
The European initiative includes 11 tire plants in France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia, which collectively employ nearly 12,000 workers, according to data published in Rubber & Plastics News‘ ITEC Data Package.
Goodyear said the global closures will continue through April 3.
Michelin follows suit
Michelin on March 19 said that it temporarily would close facilities in European countries that have been most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Two days later, the tyre maker said it would move toward a “phased” suspension of production throughout the U.S. and Canada.
When detailing its plans for North America, the tire maker noted the suspension of production would exclude “vital and critical tyres for the country’s economic continuity.” It didn’t specify which tyre types or lines meet that criteria. Michelin is considered a key U.S. military supplier.
The Greenville, S.C.-based subsidiary of the French tyre giant operates a dozen tyre factories in the U.S. and Canada, employing more than 13,500 hourly workers.
Bridgestone makes moves of its own
After taking steps to close plants in North America and Latin America, Bridgestone Corp. said March 23 that it would take similar steps in Europe. The company will halt production at two tyre plants and decrease production at six others in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Brussels-based company said its plants in Bethune, France, and Bari, Italy, will be closed until April 6.
In the meantime, tyre plants in Bilbao, Puente San Miguel and Burgos, Spain; Stargard and Poznan, Poland; and Tatabanya, Hungary, will operate with reduced capacity.
A retread materials factory in Lanklaar, Belgium, also will reduce operations.
In all, the plants employ about 1,000 people, including roughly 1,750 in France and Italy, and 6,500 at the other European factories.
The changes align tyre supply with predicted demand, according to Bridgestone, which says it has sufficient product on hand to meet customer needs and will keep its distribution centers, plant warehouses and logistics facilities open to fill orders.
Cooper Tire takes steps to close plants
On March 23, Findlay, Ohio-based Cooper Tire began the process of phasing down production at two plants in Melksham, England, and Krusevac, Serbia. The tyre maker expects the facilities to be closed for three weeks, saying it will continue to monitor the situation and adjust timelines “as necessary.”
Two days prior, Cooper had disclosed plans to suspend production temporarily at its tyre plants in the U.S. and Mexico.
Production will be phased down “on a rolling schedule” throughout the coming week.
Cooper said that its plants in China reopened several weeks ago and continue to increase production.
Pirelli phases out production in U.S., Europe
Pirelli Tire North America Inc. said March 20 that it would begin phasing out operations at its Rome, Ga., tire plant. The production scale-back was scheduled to begin March 22 with a full suspension of manufacturing for one week starting March 29.
The factory will be cleaned and sanitized while closed.
On March 23, Pirelli disclosed plans to halt production at plants in England, Italy and Romania in response to the global outbreak of COVID-19.
Apollo execs take pay cuts, suspend operations
Apollo Tyres Ltd. will stop production of passenger car tyres at its plant in Enschede, Netherlands, on March 27, and switch gears to focus on specific “critical” agriculture tyre sizes in response to “a strong need across Europe.”
The Gurgaon, India-based company also will stop production in Gyongyoshalasz, Hungary, starting March 28 for at least two weeks.
In addition, last week, Apollo executives offered to take a pay cut in light of the pandemic’s impact on the automotive industry. Chairman and Managing Director Onkar S. Kanwar and Vice Chairman and Managing Director Neeraj Kanwar are taking a 25 percent reduction in their salary. Other senior management have taken a voluntary 15 percent reduction in their salary in a show of solidarity.
Some tyre makers maintain operations
Continental Tire The Americas L.L.C. is among the tyre makers continuing to operate normally despite the COVID-19 crisis with company officials saying the situation “remains highly dynamic.”
Toyo Tire Holdings of Americas Inc., Titan International Inc. and Nokian Tyres North America also are maintaining normal operations during the pandemic.
Continental operates four plants in North America, including three in the U.S. and one in Mexico.
Toyo is keeping a plant in White, Ga., open as well as a distribution center in Ontario, Calif., where the yire maker said its business operation qualifies for exemption from the state of California’s stay-at-home order issued March 19.
Toyo’s manufacturing facility in Malaysia, which supplies tyres to the U.S. market, was shut down last week under orders of the government there. It is the only Toyo plant that has been idled, according to the company.
At Des Moines, Iowa-based Titan, primary facilities across North America, which includes three U.S. factories, remain open, and sales and customer service employees are available for customers.
Meanwhile, Nokian said its plant in Dayton, Tenn., continues to operate, and the company is “taking significant precautions to protect our workers’ health.” The precautions include social distancing, travel and visitor restrictions; and enhanced cleaning protocols; rotating lunches and modified employee entrances and exits to minimise the volume of people in shared spaces.
In addition, Trelleborg Wheel Systems USA has reported that its agricultural tire plant in Spartanburg, S.C., remains in operation.
Triangle resumes production in China
Triangle Tyre Co. Ltd.’s four manufacturing plants in China are operating at above 90 percent capacity following a three-week shutdown due to the Chinese New Year followed by precautions taken for the virus outbreak in China.
Company officials said almost all employees are back at work and numerous shipping containers of Triangle tires are headed to the U.S. as the Triangle logistics department attempts to navigate obstacles created by the worldwide pandemic.