The entrance to the Bridgestone factory in Béthune, in the Pas-de-Calais.
"This is not a decision that we have taken lightly," Laurent Dartoux, President and CEO of Bridgestone Europe Africa and Middle East, told AFP.
The Japanese manufacturer has decided to permanently close its Béthune plant, in Pas-de-Calais.
It employs 863 people in the manufacture of tires for cars, we learned on Wednesday.
Citing excess production capacity in Europe and competition from low-cost Asian brands, the group claims to want to limit as much as possible the number of layoffs through pre-retirement measures, internal or external reclassification of employees, and the search for a buyer for the site.
Michelin and Continental too
The announcement comes nearly a year after French competitor Michelin decided to close two tire factories in La Roche-sur-Yon, Vendée and Bamberg, in southern Germany.
The Continental group also announced on Tuesday the closure of its tire factory in Aachen, Germany, where 1,800 people are employed.
In a press release, Bridgestone said it had informed employees on Wednesday morning that it was considering "the total and final cessation of the activity of the Bethune plant", during an extraordinary meeting of the social and economic committee.
The closure could take place from the “second quarter of 2021”.
The Japanese manufacturer, which claims the world's leading position in the tire market, promises “a sustained dialogue with employee representatives” and “an ambitious revitalization plan for employment” in the region.
"Total disagreement" of policies
In a press release, the Minister of Labor, Elisabeth Borne, the Minister Delegate to the Minister of the Economy, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, and the President of the Hauts-de-France Regional Council, Xavier Bertrand "affirm their total disagreement with this advert ".
“They dispute its brutality, its relevance and its foundations.
They ask the company to open up and analyze in detail all the alternative scenarios to the closure of the site and taking into account the possibilities offered by the national and regional recovery plans ”, we read in the press release.
"The least efficient" in Europe
The Béthune plant, which produces automotive tires under the Bridgestone and Firestone brands, has been experiencing difficulties for a long time.
It is "the least efficient" among the ten factories of the group in Europe, says management.
In a decade, its workforce has fallen by 40%, at the same rate as its production volumes (from 8.5 million units to 5.1 million) in a stable market.
Like Michelin last year, Bridgestone invokes increasingly strong competition from low-cost Asian brands, especially Chinese.
He estimates that their market share increased from 6% to 25% between 2000 and 2018.
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