2. Hurricanes and the tsunami
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita tore up the Gulf Coast states, causing damage and shutdowns to many rubber industry operations. Especially hard hit, by Rita, was the synthetic rubber industry. Earlier in the year the tsunami in the Indian Ocean disrupted natural rubber shipments.
3. Bridgestone Americas continues comeback
Not a bad year for Bridgestone Corp.'s U.S.-based operations. The business continued to put distance between itself and the Wilderness/ATX tire recall and expected to hit $10 billion in sales, with its North American tire operations getting into the black. The firm was able to fashion a contact with the Steelworkers without a strike, and announced plans to build a plant in Mexico and upgrade another in Canada.
4. DuPont Dow Elastomers partnership dissolves
Partners Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont split up their 10-year joint venture. The business never met the original expectations, and the price-fixing scandal concerning EPDM didn't help. Now the two companies are back in the synthetic rubber business on their own, talking optimistically about their separate futures.
5. China provides more danger, opportunities
Major tire manufacturers-Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. in particular-continued to boost production in China. The boomtown atmosphere in the Communist government/capitalist economy nation drew more automotive component makers following their customers to China, and encouraged rubber industry supplier-side companies to do the same.
6. Goodyear strives for `comeback kid' title
Goodyear maintained profits throughout the year while making more changes to get out of the debt-encumbered woods. The company put its profitable Engineered Products business on the auction block, agreed to sell its agricultural tire unit to Titan International Inc., increased its tire sourcing in Asia and announced plans to close higher-cost production sites.
7. Titan never sleeps-buys, partners, may go private
A busy year for Titan International Inc. The firm tries to buy Goodyear's ag tire unit (pending); teams up with Rodos Giants L.L.C. to buy Continental's Bryan, Ohio, plant (pending); strives to go private (pending); and enjoys a stock price surge (continuing). The company even reaches a contract agreement with workers at the Goodyear Freeport, Ill., plant, needed to facilitate the Goodyear ag tire purchase.
8. Move to euthanasize `old' tires gains ground
At first the tire industry pooh-poohs claims that tires deteriorate with age, no matter how they are used, and rallies against attempts to regulate ``old'' tires. Then Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. buy into the theory, and advise their customers to jettison tires after six years. Bridgestone/ Firestone breaks ranks and signs on with the ``out with the old'' faction, and the Rubber Manufacturers Association awaits the results of a study on tire aging.
9. GDX Automotive takes to the acquisition trail
GDX Automotive Inc., in its first year under the ownership of an investment company, seeks growth via acquisition. The company buys Borg-Warner Inc.'s vibration damper assets, and follows it up with the acquisition of SaarGummi GmbH's Canadian and Mexican vehicle sealing, molded rubber products and glass encapsulation units, six plants in all.
10. Conti makes cuts, tries to sell plant, starts talks
Continental North America Inc. cuts production 30 percent and its staff by up to 300 at its Charlotte, N.C., tire plant, and the firm's president, Martien de Louw, leaves after differences on business strategies. The company becomes embroiled in a spate with the Steelworkers union over selling its Bryan, Ohio, tire facility to Rodos Giants L.L.C., and Titan International Inc. becomes involved. The German-owned tire maker starts up contract talks with the Steelworkers to ask for concessions at Charlotte.