Pirelli Armstrong Tire Corp. has had no luck since Pirelli Group bought the Armstrong Rubber Co. tire division in 1988. The trend continues.
First there were ugly, protracted strikes by union members at two plants. Then Pirelli Armstrong sold off its farm tire business and the Des Moines, Iowa, facility.
The labor unrest at the Hanford, Calif., plant, which included the hiring of strikebreakers, ended badly for the company when a labor law error forced the tire maker to capitulate.
Now the Nashville, Tenn., unit, one of two plants the company operates, is in jeopardy.
Pirelli Armstrong has placed the Nashville operation on the ``partnership or else'' list. ``Or else'' is a plant closing, announced earlier this month in accordance with the company's contract with the Rubber Workers that requires advanced notice of a factory shutdown.
The company is desperate for a partner for the facility. The tire maker needs to cut costs after continuously losing millions and sees a joint venture as a way out. Several tire makers have toured the plant, but nothing seems imminent.
Such is the sad legacy for once-proud Armstrong Rubber Co. The business operated for most of the century as a second-tier tire maker, large by rubber company standards, but ultimately too small to compete very effectively in the tire field.
It's sad, too, for Pirelli. The company was an also-ran in the big collaborations of the last decade. It failed to force a merger with Continental A.G., lost out on its bid to buy Firestone and ended up grabbing the best available deal-Armstrong's tire division.
If Pirelli ends up with just one plant in the U.S., it'll seem like the entire exercise hardly was worthwhile.
A small change
It's of interest that Groupe Michelin is displaying a measure of openness concerning the company in the post-Francois Michelin era.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more secretive company in business: This is the firm that didn't even put corporate executives' titles on their business cards. The tire maker remains mostly close-mouthed, but at least it has given a little glimpse into its future plans and strategy.
That's different, and refreshing.