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Conti to Add "Low Cost" Production for N.A.Continental AG announced plans to spend upwards of $306.9 million to boost tire capacity in low-cost countries, primarily to benefit its struggling North American operations. In addition, Continental officials said the company is still seeking a partner in China.

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s to be done to complete the agreement, but "for all intents and purposes, it is a done deal." Brodsky said the manifest rule changes would likely go into effect in September.

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TRIB and California retreaders have been fighting the regulations, which went into effect last July. The regulations, included as part of a broader effort to reduce scrap tire piles in the state, required anyone hauling 10 or more waste, or used, tires ®“ regardless of what those tires were to be used for ®“ to file detailed manifests and trip logs for each tire. Fines for violators could have topped $25,000 per day.

The rule revision will allow retreaders to file one daily trip log on a single form instead of using multiple forms.

CIWMB attempted to placate angry retreaders by allowing them to file manifests and logs electronically. However, a silent protest by retreaders created a massive backlog of some 60,000 forms for CIWMB to process by hand.

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Lisoni Fires More Bullets After Court Rejects Class Action Petition

In a case that just won’t go away, attorney Joseph Lisoni fired additional salvos at Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire and its parent company, and filed a formal complaint against the judge who ruled against his bid for national class action status in his suit against the tiremaker over alleged Firestone Steeltex defects.

California Superior Court Judge Christopher Sheldon ruled Mar. 17 that Lisoni and his client, Roger Littell, a Yucca Valley, Calif., retiree who claims that five Steeltex tires on his recreational vehicle suffered blowouts, failed to provide any evidence that all claims against BFNAT over its Steeltex line should be tied together in a national class action suit.

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The ruling, which came after months of delays, was immediately appealed by Lisoni, who has made it a personal crusade to force the court-ordered recall of all Steeltex tires. His appeal will be heard on June 22.

In addition to the appeal, Lisoni filed a formal complaint with the California Judicial Council, claiming Sheldon handled the case in an "incompetent manner." Lisoni also said he would file a new suit against Bridgestone Corp., re-enjoining the company in the action; begin filing class action suits against both companies in individual states and territories; and file a petition with NHTSA on Apr. 2, asking that the agency open a new investigation into Steeltex tires used on emergency vehicles.

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Lisoni also said BFNAT should stop using carbon black supplied by Continental Carbon Corp. "because it could lead to massive tire tread separations." Continental Carbon’s Ponca City, Okla., plant has been embroiled in a three-year labor struggle with the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical & Energy International Union (PACE). Union workers claim they have been locked out, and replacement workers are producing substandard carbon black.

A BFNAT spokesman said the company was delighted with Sheldon’s Mar. 17 ruling but fully expected the judge to rule in its favor. BFNAT still faces the original lawsuit filed by Littell in August 2002, as well as other individual suits filed in other states. However, unless the state appellate court overturns Judge Sheldon’s ruling, it seems unlikely that BFNAT will face a court-ordered national recall.

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In a separate action, on Mar. 15, the Texas District Court in Beaumont approved a $149 million settlement of some 30 other class-action claims against BFNAT tied to the August 2000 recall of certain Firestone Wilderness tires. The settlement, which included provisions for free tire replacements and consumer education efforts, could affect some 15 million people across the country who owned certain types of Firestone tires between 1991 and 2001.

Goodyear Cans Execs in Accounting Probe; Sells $650 Million Bonds

New financial problems prompted Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. to dismiss three top managers of its European operations in early March and further delay filing of its 2003 annual report.

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The unnamed executives were fired, and other managers disciplined, after an internal investigation of accounting problems in the European operations. The company said it had also "streamlined its organizational structure" in response to the problems but cautioned that its investigation was not complete.

Already under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for a $100 million restatement of five years of financial results announced late last year, the company said further restatements of its financials are necessary.

Goodyear said these new restatements were primarily due to an understatement of workers’ compensation claims at one of its U.S. plants between 1999 and 2003.

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The restatements will reduce reported operating earnings by $16 million and cut shareholder equity by some $23 million.

Separately, Goodyear successfully completed its own private sale of $650 million in senior bonds. Proceeds from the bond sale were used to retire portions of the company’s previous loan agreements.

BFS Stores Host Car Care Academies; 28 Dates Announced Nationwide

Bridgestone/Firestone Retail & Commercial Operations will hold a nationwide series of free interactive car care clinics at Firestone Tire & Service Centers and Tires Plus stores.

Called Car Care Academies, the events are designed to teach consumers what they can do on a monthly basis to help keep their cars running in better condition. Bridgestone/Firestone doubled the number of Academy stops, compared to last year, and hired Trisha Hessinger to serve as the new spokesperson for the effort.

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Hessinger has been a guest speaker for major auto manufacturers and a contributing writer for various magazines and newspapers on automotive subjects. She has also competed in open wheel and showroom stock car races and is a celebrity race trainer and driving instructor.

Car Care Academies will be held at 28 locations across the country between late March and the end of October. The complete schedule is available online at www.mastercareusa.com.

Cooper Looks to Unload Cooper-Standard Unit

Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. is considering selling off its Cooper-Standard Automotive Group, a move that will effectively reduce the company by half, remove it from the automotive OE business and allow it to focus solely on its core tire operations.

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The surprising announcement came on Mar. 24, and Cooper said it had retained Lazard Freres & Co. to assist in the sale process. Cooper, however, did not commit entirely to dumping Cooper-Standard, which produces fluid handling, body sealing and active/passive vibration control systems for auto OEMs. Based in Novi, Mich., Cooper-Standard posted 2003 sales of $1.66 billion, nearly half of Cooper’s total 2003 sales of $3.3 billion.

Cooper-Standard was created by the tiremaker’s 1999 purchase of Standard Products Corp. for $757 million. Cooper said proceeds from a possible divestiture could be used to reduce its estimated debt of $800 million, be re-invested in its tire operations, returned as capital to shareholders or to repurchase its own shares, or a combination of those options.

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Tom Dattilo, Cooper’s chairman, president and CEO, said the company’s board of directors felt it necessary to evaluate "strategic alternatives" for Cooper-Standard. "We believe that Cooper may best be served by dedicating our resources to investing in our tire business and further pursuing global expansion," he said.

No timetable for a possible sale was given, and Cooper officials said the company will conduct business as usual until a decision is reached.

TIA seeks Board Nominees, New Secretary

TIA is accepting nominations for its 2004-05 Board of Directors and for the vacant association secretary position. TIA said there are 10 three-year board positions and three one-year slots open.

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Only TIA members "in good standing" can serve on the board, and self-nominations are welcome. To be eligible for the position of secretary, an individual must have served on the TIA board for two consecutive years at the time of election.

All nominations should be submitted by Apr. 16 by completing and returning the TIA Board of Directors Nomination Form ®“ available online at www.tireindustry.org or by calling 800-876-8372 ®“ to TIA headquarters.

CMA split creates two separate CMAs

Two, they say, is always better than one. But having two China Manufacturers Alliances may only lead to unfortunate confusion.

That may well be the case for the foreseeable future as a management split effectively created two companies with nearly identical names ®“ China Manufacturers Alliance LLC and China Manufacturers Alliance Inc.

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In early March, CMA LLC chairman Xian Fan named new top management for the Valencia, Calif., importer: Larry Williams, CEO; Mike Yang, president; Steve See, vice president of operations; and Ben Tang, controller.

Fan said CMA LLC will still represent Double Coin tires, produced by Shanghai Tire & Rubber Co. in Taiwan and would begin representing "other major Chinese tire manufacturers."

At the same time, Jeff Kreitzman and Wayne Hung, who established CMA Inc. in 1998, claimed North American marketing rights to Advance, Armour, Bluestar and Wynstar brands of passenger, light truck/SUV, medium truck, OTR and specialty tires, produced by a number of Chinese tiremakers.

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Both CMA LLC’s Web site (www.cmaintl.com) and CMA Inc.’s site (www.cmatire.com) were up and running as of late March, but both were under construction. CMA LLC apparently will retain the familiar yellow oval logo featuring a panda bear, while CMA Inc.’s logo plans are unknown.

OF NOTE

- Pilot Travel Centers are now selling Goodyear branded medium truck tires at all 264 locations; Pilot will also offer Michelin and BFGoodrich brand medium truck tires at its Pilot Truck Care Centers, which will number 30 locations by 2005.

- Cooper voluntarily recalled 1,173 Cooper Zeon 2XS, Zeon ZTP, and Zeon XST, as well as comparable Mastercraft Avenger HP and Avenger ZHP tires ®“ sizes 265/35R18, 215/35R18 and 305/35R24 ®“ due to performance issues found in post-production testing.

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- Arnco’s SuperFlex polyurethane flatproofing material received a 2003 Pinancle Award from Lift Applications & Equipment magazine.

- BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO and the Michelin XZL military tire will equip the commercial and military versions, respectively, of the U.S. Army SmarTruck III multi-purpose vehicle.

- ITR Inc. in Jacksonville, Ill., became a Marangoni Ringtread dealer.

- With the help of three government agencies, the Rubber Association of Canada is sponsoring "Be Tire Smart Week" across the country Apr. 25 through May 1.

- Both Michelle Bonner, marketing director, and Bunny McDermott, communications coordinator, have left the TIA staff and were replaced by Colleen Wood, who will serve as marketing director.

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- Cooper is exporting its Mickey Thompson drag racing tires to Europe through its Avon Tyres Racing operation.

- Bridgestone Corp. is raising prices June 1 on all passenger, light truck and medium truck tires sold in Japan by an average of 5.5%.

- Cooper Tire & Rubber reported that its insurance costs jumped $10.3 million last year after it changed its insurance structure to lower costs and increase excess liability coverage.

- Jim Pearl rejoined Denman Tire Corp. as senior vice president of sales and marketing.

- Durakon updated its Web site ®“ www.durakon.com ®“ to improve navigation and include more product information.

- Joe Thomas, who headed Reliable Tire Co.’s Spartan Tire/Private Brands Direct operation, has announced his retirement after 40 years in the tire industry.

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- Goodyear Dunlop Tyres U.K. is ending production of radial farm tires at its Wolverhampton, England, plant, cutting 84 jobs.

- For the fourth consecutive year, Maxxis has been named one of Shanghai General Motors’ Best Suppliers.

- Tokai Carbon and Sumitomo Rubber Industries are building a carbon black plant in China to service tiremakers in that country; carbon black demand in China is rising more than 10% per year.

- Kumho Tire USA is bumping prices on all of its tires by 3% to 5%, effective May 1.

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