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BFS Strike Threatened: Negotiations Go to the Wire; Nine Plants at Stake

Negotiations Go to the Wire; Nine Plants at Stake

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BFS Strike threatened

Negotiations Go to the Wire; Nine Plants at Stake

With both sides tight-lipped, negotiators for Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. (BFS) and the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) buckled in for around the clock talks aimed at averting another major strike. The USWA had given BFS until 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 2 to deliver an acceptable contract proposal. At press time, both sides said talks would go right to the wire, but neither would predict an outcome.

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Negotiations took a hard turn on BFS when the union gave notice on Aug. 18 that it was terminating the day-to-day contracts on which it had been operating, putting the wheels in motion for a strike to start over Labor Day weekend.

At stake is production at nine facilities – six of which produce tires for commercial sale. A large-scale strike would be another major headache for BFS, already rocked by its voluntary recall of some 6.5 million ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires.

Negotiations between BFS and the union started in March. The two sides agreed in April to extend the contracts on a day-to-day basis, with a 14-day termination clause.

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According to the USWA, BFS’s Aug. 15 contract proposal "fell far short of meeting the critical issues identified by the membership." A second proposal was offered Aug. 29, according to reports. While neither side would discuss the proposal BFS offered, a USWA spokesman told Tire Review 36 hours before the deadline that "some progress has been made."

While both BFS’s Warren County, Tenn., truck tire and the Bloomington, Ill., OTR tire plants operate on separate contracts, they’re being bundled in with BFS plants in Akron, Ohio; Decatur, Ill.; Des Moines, Iowa; LaVergne, Tenn.; Noblesville, Ind.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Russellville, Ark., for the USWA’s 8,000-worker strike threat.

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The last contract negotiations between BFS and a union resulted in a bitter 28-month strike that was finally resolved in December 1996, and the demise of the United Rubber Workers union, which merged with the USWA during the battle.

Goodyear loses blimp to fickle Philly winds

A sudden, freakish gust of wind drove Goodyear’s Stars & Stripes blimp into its mooring mast, destroying the two-year-old airship while it was landing at a Philadelphia airport on Aug. 19.

Neither the ship’s pilot nor six passengers were injured, and Goodyear plans to rebuild the airship by early next year.

The accident was the second suffered by Goodyear’s blimp fleet in the last 10 months. In late October, Goodyear’s Spirit of Akron crashed near its Suffield Township, Ohio, hangar. It was eventually determined that mechanical failure caused the crash. Less than four months later, Goodyear christened its replacement – the Spirit of Goodyear.

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According to news reports, Stars & Stripes landed at Northeast Philadelphia Airport after a routine goodwill flight. As is standard procedure, more than a dozen ground crew members were holding tether lines connected to the blimp when a sudden gust of wind pushed the 192-foot-long helium-filled craft into its mooring tower, ripping the side of the blimp.

Programming dealer creates recall software aid

Rich Kozlowski runs Richard’s Tire Inc. in Petoskey, Mich., by day. In his spare time, Kozlowski creates his own software. When Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. announced it was recalling 6.5 million tires, Kozlowski modified a software package previously created for his business, and launched ADJ Manager, which Kozlowski claims will help dealers track warranty claims of all kinds, track customer credits, shipped and unshipped tires, RARs, completed jobs, customer waiting list and more.

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ADJ Manager runs on Windows 98 and NT, and is available for $34.95 by writing Kozlowski at 1813 U.S. 31, North Petoskey, MI 49770, or at his Web site at www.richardstire.com.

Carmaker becoming a tire manufacturer?

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to introduce low-cost tires, jointly developed with Japan’s Fuji Seiko K.K., for use on some of its cars in 2001, perhaps the first step in Toyota becoming its own tire manufacturer.

Toyota plans to give several major unnamed tire makers the "manufacturing technology for the new tire" it co-developed with Fuji Seiko, with the expectation those tire manufacturers will produce the tire for Toyota. The new tire will be introduced on certain Toyota models beginning next year, according to the company.

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According to industry reports, Toyota had been considering taking on tire manufacturing itself, but abandoned the plan after determining that such would require too much plant space. However, Toyota officials said the company is planning to change its procurement arrangements for tires, suggesting the company could start producing them on its own.

Goodyear helps crash investigation

An unseen piece of metal, a supersonic aircraft, and a rubber tire. A three-part recipe for the July 25 crash of an Air France Concorde jet that claimed 113 lives outside of Paris. At least that’s the scenario crash investigators in France and England have focused on since early August.

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During their initial investigation, aviation experts speculated that a piece of metal debris – later found on the runway of Charles de Gaulle Airport ®“ punctured one of the jet’s tires during takeoff, sending chunks of rubber tearing into the Concorde’s fuel tanks and causing other structural damage. The spilling fuel caught fire, disabling the aircraft as it attempted to take off.

The accident grounded all active Concordes operated by Air France and British Airways.

Goodyear produces Air France’s Concorde tires, while British Airways gets its tires from Dunlop Aircraft Tyre Co., a company unconnected with either Goodyear or Dunlop. Investigators have not implicated Goodyear tires as the cause of the accident.

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Goodyear technical specialists were immediately sent to the crash scene to assist investigators. Rubber chunks found on the runway were identified as coming from a Goodyear-made Concorde tire, and the metal piece implicated as the cause of the tire puncture was discovered within days of the accident.

Unlike standard commercial airliner tires, Concorde tires are specially designed to withstand high speed – up to 250 mph ®“ takeoffs and landings.

RMA sees record shipments for 2000

Revised shipment projections from the Rubber Manufacturers Association’s Tire Market Analysis Committee (TMAC) confirmed the group’s forecast that tire shipments for 2000 will match or surpass 1999’s record levels, while growth for the next two years will moderate.

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Key TMAC projections for 2000 include:

®′ OE passenger tires reached a record 61 million units in 1999, and will add more than 700,000 units in 2000 for a projected 61.7 million units. However, decreases are expected for 2001 and 2002. Replacement passenger tire shipments are expected to reach 198 million units in 2000, or 3.2% over 1999’s record 191.9 million units. TMAC expects more than 203 million tires to be shipped in 2001, and to grow to 208 million units in 2002.

®′ OE light truck/SUV tire shipments reached the 8.4 million unit mark in 1999. OE demand will plateau in 2000 due to slowing vehicle sales. Replacement P-metric light truck/SUV tires shipments in 2000 are projected to grow by 22% over 1999’s level to 22 million units, reaching 28 million units in 2002. TMAC expects replacement LT-metic light truck/SUV tire shipments to reach more than 36 million units in 2000, an increase of 6.5% over 1999, and grow to 40 million units in 2002.

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®′ OE medium and wide-base truck tires will decrease to 600,000 units in 2000 as vehicle sales slow through 2001. However, shipments should pick up in 2002 and approach the level achieved in 2000. Replacement medium and wide-base truck tires set a record in 1999 with 14.6 million units shipped, and it’s anticipated more than 15 million units will be shipped in 2000. TMAC forecasts shipments will reach 15.7 million units through 2002.

Goodyear takes stake in air pressure system

Goodyear has taken a minority interest in Cycloid Co., a Pennsylvania-based developer of on-board vehicle tire inflation systems, in a move seen as furthering the tire maker’s run-flat strategy and future OE efforts. Under the agreement, the two companies will develop and market continuous tire pressure monitoring and maintenance systems created by Cycloid for passenger and light duty vehicles.

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The two companies will focus on Cycloid’s ACS (Air Compressor System) product, which Cycloid originally developed for the trucking industry. ACS is a self-contained, inertia compressor mounted at the center of the wheel that uses its rotation to power the pump and maintain constant tire air pressure, according to the company. Cycloid and Goodyear have been developing an enhanced version of the pump, which will provide wireless communication, information sensing and transmission features for future automotive platforms.

"This is a significant step and further demonstrates Goodyear’s commitment to tire safety, durability and performance. It will make it easier for consumers to maintain proper tire pressure, which can lead to longer and more-even tire wear and increased fuel economy," said Joseph M. Gingo, Goodyear’s senior vice president for technology and global products. "It also shows our continued commitment to run-flat tire systems and is another step in our ongoing development of vehicle systems for the automotive market."

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Long-time ARA head winds down career

Ed Wagner, who for 20 years served as executive of the American Retreaders Association (ARA) – now the International Tire & Rubber Association ®“ is hanging it up at the end of this year.

Wagner, 76, who owns and operates Tire Technical Services Inc. in Louisville, will retire at the end of the year to devote more time to family and other interests. Wagner announced no specific plans for Tire Technical Services. Since he retired as executive director of the ARA, Wagner has guided his Louisville company, and served as an expert witness in a number of tire product liability cases.

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He started his nearly 50-year tire industry career with his family’s dealership in Maine, then joined Firestone after serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. Over the rest of his career, Wagner worked for Armstrong, the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association, a tire dealership in Michigan, and Super Mold Corp.

In 1966, Wagner purchased Retreading Consultants Inc. from George Edwards, co-founder of the ARA, becoming the association’s executive director for the next 20 years.

Online Yokohama Program Gives Dealers Incentives to Keep Learning

To continue building a dealer sales force that’s highly knowledgeable about high-performance products, Yokohama has launched the Rewarding Performance Membership – or RPM ®“ online rewards program for participating dealers. With each sale of qualified Yokohama ultra-high performance tires, both retail and wholesale salespeople can earn dollars they can spend at Flooz.com, an online mart that sells a variety of products from sporting goods and outdoors equipment to electronics to art and collectibles.

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Membership in the program is achieved reading regular news bullitens from Yokohama about current industry trends and earning certification by completing Yokohama’s EXCEED training program – now available on CD-ROM.

RPM members will also be entered into a quarterly drawing for trips to such places as the American Le Mans Race in Australia, Wide Open Baja, the Russell Racing School and the Tokyo Auto Show in Japan. Contact Yokohama at 800-423-4544 for more information.

Worth Noting

TBC Corp. – Named Orland Wolford president of its Tire Kingdom division ®ƒ John Adams was named president of Big O Tire.

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Goodyear Dunlop Tires North America – Promoted Frederick Hassen Jr. to performance product marketing manager ®ƒ Colleen Low-Larkin to consumer affairs representative.

Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. – Appointed John Fahl, president of Cooper Tire Co., to executive vice president of the corporation ®ƒ Named Roderick Millhof as executive vice president of Cooper Standard Automotive ®ƒ Susan Kill became manager of corporate consolidations ®ƒ D. Larry Williams was named manager of international marketing and business development for Cooper Tire ®ƒ J. Chad O’Hara was named tire group customer service manager ®ƒ Promoted Bryan DiNarda to production planning manager for its Findlay plant ®ƒ Michael Van Sky was named general accounting manager and Roger Shroll became budgets manager for Cooper Tire.

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The Timken Co. – Named Wayne Dyer Midwest regional sales manager for the aftermarket.

Nokian Tyres plc – Kim Gran will become president and CEO effective Sept. 1.

TrucktireXchange.com – Appointed Jeffrey Kenyon as CFO and Patrick Duininck of Royal Tire Inc. to its board of advisers.

Stellar Industries Inc. – Appointed Tom Cunningham as customer service representative ®ƒ Promoted Kirk Uhlenhopp to Midwest hook lift sales manager.

Titan International Inc. – Promoted Raymond Evans to executive vice president of engineering, marketing and sales ®ƒ Named Skip Sagar vice president of sales ®ƒ Ken Allen became marketing director ®ƒ Dan DeGoey was named OEM account manager.

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Treadways Corp. – Appointed Lyle Symonds to vice president of sales and marketing for Eldorado Tire, and named Tracee-Jo Kalan assistant marketing manager.

International Marketing Inc. – Promoted Dorothy Spencer to national sales manager, tire management systems.

CGT Adds OTR Radials, New Regional Service Steer Axle Tire

Production of radials for articulated dump trucks, small and mid-size loaders, small scrapers, motor graders and small rigid haul trucks began earlier this year, and Continental General Tire Inc. (CGT) already plans to expand the line by 2002 to accommodate large loaders, large scrapers, mid-size rigid haul trucks and container handling equipment.

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The new line of Continental radials, which complement CGT’s General bias tire line, have multiple steel belts, square shoulder designs, and footprints created using 3-D imaging technology. Because of their low rolling resistance, the radial tires promote better fuel economy during operation, said CGT.

In addition, the company introduced the Continental HSR, a steer axle tire intended for regional service. The 23/32nds-inch tread makes for stability and endurance, and a 16-ply casing enhances retreadability, CGT said. The tire was made with a cut/chip-resistant compound to protect against the hazards of regional service, and comes in sizes 11R22.5, 11R24.5 and 285/75R24.5. CGT also plans to make the HSR available in size 275/80R22.5 in the near future.

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Of Note ®ƒ

Anticipating dramatic decreases in truck orders, both Navistar and Freightliner announced significant layoffs of office and production staffs ®ƒ Yokohama Tire Corp. will continue to supply race tires to the Sports Car Club of America Spec Racer Ford Series ®ƒ Two months after receiving ISO9002 certification, Goodyear Dunlop North America plants in Tonawanda, N.Y., and Huntsville, Ala., received QS-9000 certification ®ƒ Michelin Americas Truck Tires added technology to its Web site – www.michelintruck.com ®“ allowing faster updates of product and technical information ®ƒ Five Bridgestone/Firestone radials ®“ Bridgestone Blizzak WS-50, Bridgestone Winter Dueler, Bridgestone MZ-01, Bridgestone MZ-02 and the Firestone FT70c with Sealix ®“ earned Good Housekeeping Seals ®ƒ Citing cost issues, Groupe Michelin subsidiary Uniroyal S.A. de C.V. closed its passenger and truck tire plants in Tacuba and Queretaro, Mexico ®ƒ Autovia.com added 10 new manufacturer catalogs to its parts network roster, giving users online access to some 4,500 product lines ®ƒ In early August, union representatives from nine countries formed a global network of organized Bridgestone Corp. employees, pledging to unite for "mutual defense and advancement," and vowing to take solidarity action if Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. "refuses to negotiate a fair agreement" with the United Steelworkers of America ®ƒ Canadian Tire’s 24-store PartSource subsidiary bought an undisclosed number of Auto Village and Drivers parts stores in Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw ®ƒ Information on Michelin agricultural tires is now available online at www.michelinag.com ®ƒ Merchant’s Tire & Auto Centers opened a new store in Raleigh, N.C., its 120th location overall and 11th in the Raleigh-Durham market ®ƒ Treadways Corp. has added the new Omni radial medium truck tire that will be produced by Continental General Tire Inc. (CGT), as well as the Doral passenger and light truck/SUV line, also produced by CGT ®ƒ News reports say Groupe Michelin is forming a joint venture tire manufacturing company with China’s Shanghai Tyre & Rubber Co., its second venture in China ®ƒ Joining the Internet tire exchange market is tiresworld.com, which is specifically targeting tire manufacturers and distributors interested in selling slow moving and surplus stock on a global basis ®ƒ Groupe Michelin and Nokian Tyres PLC have reportedly formed a non-exclusive off-take tire production partnership, whereby Michelin would produce certain passenger and OTR equipment tires for Nokian ®ƒ Goodyear has redesigned its ATV tire-specific Web site ®“ www.goodyearATV.com ®“ adding features to allow consumers to search by tire size, and search by make and model of their ATV ®ƒ Del-Nat Corp. has added the Delta Essex, available in both metric and 60-series performance sizes, and the National Metric and National HP lines in similar sizes; early next year Del-Nat will add 17- and 18-inch sizes to its Akuret Ultra HP line ®ƒ Sumitomo Rubber Industries is expanding its presence in Asia with the acquisition of a 10% stake in Taiwan’s Hwa Fong Rubber Industries Co., announcing plans for a $92.2 million radial passenger tire plant in Indonesia that will open in 2002, and expanding production at its current plant in Indonesia to 6,000 units per day ®ƒ According to reports, Thailand, the world’s largest producer of natural rubber, will destroy more than 2% of its rubber trees annually because earlier efforts to increase prices failed ®ƒ While denying wrongdoing, Team Tires Plus, recently acquired by Morgan Tire & Auto Centers, agreed to pay the state of Wisconsin $37,647 in penalties for allegedly recommending unnecessary auto repairs and keeping inadequate transaction records ®ƒ Potosi, Mo.-based Purcell Tire and Rubber Co. bought the eight-location Tom’s Tire & Service Center in Albers, Ill., and acquired OTR retreader Heartland Retreaders Inc. in Kansas City, Kan. ®ƒ Service Tire Truck Centers of Bethlehem, Pa., acquired Baltimore’s Klausemeyer Tire Inc., adding three locations and retreading operations.

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