Bridgestone South Africa

Firestone celebrates 70 years

Sep 14, 2006

On September 14, 1936 the first Firestone tyre to be built in South Africa rolled off the assembly line in the company's new factory in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. Today, 70 years after Harvey Firestone Jnr, together with first managing director John Cohill, officially opened the PE factory; the company has grown into a major supplier of passenger and commercial vehicle tyres to the South African motor, mining and agricultural industries with factories in PE in the Eastern Cape and Brits in North West Province.

"When we began making tyres in Port Elizabeth during September 1936, the country was in the throes of a major depression, the economy was in a poor condition and future prospects looked very bleak," wrote then Executive Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of Firestone SA (Pty) Limited, Mr Peter Morum, in a 50th anniversary commemorative booklet entitled "The Firestone Story 1936-1986".

"In retrospect, the courage of the management of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company and their confidence in the future has been more than justified," he continued. "Today, Firestone in South Africa is synonymous with quality, the product has excellent acceptance and the company has become a household name."

Twenty years on, Firestone South Africa has become Bridgestone South Africa and the company's growth has reflected the growth of the country.

"Our continued success has been made possible by the wholehearted support of dedicated employees and a countrywide dealer network committed to total customer service and satisfaction," said Chairman and CEO, Mr Yasuhiro Ito. "It is our aim to continue to grow and improve the quality of our products and our service to our customers."

The history of Firestone and Bridgestone in South Africa is marked with many notable milestones, from the day in 1935 when Harvey Firestone Jnr purchased the first 7,06 morgen site on the corner of Kempston and Harrower Roads on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth in 1935 (for 750 pounds!). The original production capacity in 1936 was 350 tyres a day with 150 people involved in production.

Today, Bridgestone South Africa's PE Plant has a total of 43000 square metres of factory space and a capacity of more than 5500 tyres per day. The company employs over 800 people and produces tyres from the small steel belted Passenger range, weighing 6.8 kg up to the small Earthmover range weighing over 490 kg. To date the PE Plant has produced over 42 million tyres for the domestic and international markets.

 

In 1971 the first tyre was produced at the Firestone Brits plant. It was a tyre made by South Africans, using local materials and the most modern equipment available at that time. Thirteen years later, in 1984, with Firestone's total commitment to South Africa, vast extensions were completed at a cost of R37,5 million, making it the most modern tyre manufacturing plant in the Southern Hemisphere. This was a massive investment in the future of steel passenger and truck tyres in this country.

Today the Brits plant is producing steel radial tyres that meet the quality, design and performance standards equal to those achieved anywhere else in the world. It is one of only three Bridgestone plants outside of Japan with the state-of-the-art technology gearing to manufacture the Bridgestone RFT (Run Flat Tyre), a technology that Bridgestone Corporation pioneered.

Since the first tyre left its mould, the Brits plant has produced some 29 million tyres. In today's highly competitive market, Firestone and Bridgestone steelbelt passenger and steelcord truck tyres have proved their efficiency and productivity over and over again with their outstanding performance, fuel economy, durability and reliability.

At both the PE and Brits plants constant testing and research is conducted to ensure the quality of the tyres produced. Each plant has its own fleet of test vehicles to evaluate the tyres produced, as well as tyre uniformity grading machines (TUG) and tyre test rooms with machines capable of testing tyres in excess of 280 km/h under controlled conditions.

Bridgestone Corporation of Japan took over control of Firestone South Africa in 1997 in the biggest investment by a Japanese company in South Africa and the company's name changed to Bridgestone Firestone South Africa.

In August 2004 a R700 million investment was announced in the upgrading and expanding of the Brits plant and building the state-of-the-art RFT production line, bringing the total investment by Bridgestone Japan in South Africa to R1, 5 billion. The name of the company became Bridgestone South Africa.

Bridgestone South Africa is a subsidiary of Bridgestone Corporation, headquartered in Tokyo, and is the world's largest manufacturer of tyres and other rubber products. Tyres account for 80 percent of Bridgestone Group sales worldwide. The company also manufactures industrial rubber and chemical products, sporting goods, and other diversified products. It sells its tyres in more than 150 nations. For more corporate information visit: https://www.bridgestone.co.za/.

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Bridgestone South Africa

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