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March 27, 2020 4:15 PM, EDT

Yokohama, Continental Suspend Production of New Tires

A Yokohama tire warehouseA Yokohama tire warehouse. The shutdown is scheduled to last two weeks. (Yokohama Tire Corp.)

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Two more manufacturers have idled production of new tires amid the nationwide economic slowdown brought on by the coronavirus.

Yokohama Corp. announced that it would suspend production at its plant in West Point, Miss., effective March 28 as a result of the outbreak, which is leading companies across various sectors to temporarily shutter operations. Yokohama said in a March 27 news release that the shutdown was scheduled to last two weeks.

A division of Japan’s Yokohama Rubber Co., the company said it has a “strong supply” of tires and will work with dealers to mitigate any disruptions. It plans to keep the factory’s shipping department operating and will continue to conduct maintenance operations at the plant. It also will use the production suspension to sterilize the factory so that it is clean when workers return.

Continental Tire also suspended production of new tires at factories in Mount Vernon, Ill., and Sumter, S.C. However, production of pre-cured tread used for retread tires will continue at the Mount Vernon facility under the federal government’s essential manufacturing provision.

“Increased retread demand is a natural result of many customers increasing the frequency of deliveries to grocery stores, pharmacies, healthcare facilities and other critical areas,” spokeswoman Kristyn Sigmon said in a statement.

She noted that Continental is working to balance the significant impact the outbreak is having on industrial production and the flow of goods worldwide with efforts to protect the health of employees, suppliers and customers.

Continental Tire exhibit

A Continental Tire exhibit at an industry show in 2018. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

“As a result, we are gradually adapting production in our tire plants around the world, including in North America, in coordination with our customers and suppliers,” Sigmon said. “We are making every effort to keep the impact of any temporary production modification as minimal as possible.”

Sigmon said Continental has increased its inventory and does not expect supply shortages of locally produced or imported tires.

“However, we would like to emphasize that the situation remains highly dynamic,” Sigmon said.

Bridgestone Americas Inc., Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. already announced temporary shutdowns at their respective plants. Michelin announced partial shutdowns at some plants based on different situations. Some of those closures stretched into April.

The production suspensions contribute to what has become a rough patch for the tire industry. Slowing truck production last year into the start of 2020 had reduced the number of tires truck makers are ordering from companies.

Truck sales are expected to slow even more as social distancing, store and factory closures and other efforts to slow the coronavirus pandemic tumble the U.S. economy into a recession.

“The economy and freight transportation have been turned upside down,” Eric Starks, CEO of FTR Transportation Intelligence, said in a statement.