Bridgestone PE plant turns 80
Yesterday – September 14, 2016 – was a very significant day for Bridgestone South Africa. It marked 80 years since the first Firestone tyre manufactured in South Africa rolled off the line at the company’s factory in Port Elizabeth (PE), in the Eastern Cape.
On the day 80 years ago, Harvey Firestone, together with first managing director, John Cohill, officially opened the PE factory. Harvey purchased the first 7,06-morgen (approximately six-hectare) site, on the corner of Kempston and Harrower Roads on the outskirts of PE, in 1935 for £750.
The original production capacity in 1936 was 350 car tyres a day, and 150 people worked at the factory.
“Bridgestone’s PE plant has been a cornerstone of the South African motor industry,” says plant manager, Keith Gibbs. “We have provided employment for generations of people in PE and led the way in quality tyre manufacturing and process control.”
Firestone SA became part of Bridgestone, the world’s largest tyre manufacturer, in 1997, and is one of only a few companies that can boast an unbroken 80-year history of manufacturing in South Africa.
Today, Bridgestone South Africa’s PE plant has a total of 43 000 m² of factory space, employs more than 350 people, and has the capacity to produce 800 tyres per day – ranging from ten kilogram front tractor tyres to earthmover tyres weighing up to 800 kg.
Apart from being the only tyre company to manufacture bias truck tyres locally, Bridgestone also has a second plant in Brits, in the North West Province, which opened in 1971.
“Bridgestone’s South African plants are supported by a vast sales network, including nearly 260 Supa Quick branches,” notes Bridgestone CEO, Gavin Young.
“Our commercial arm helps corporate customers select and maintain tyres for both light and heavy-goods vehicles, as well as for the mining industry. We are fully committed to South Africa and look forward to many more years of producing quality tyres in the country,” he concludes.