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Last month marked 80 years since the rst Firestone tyre to be man- ufactured in South Africa rolled off the assembly line at the company’s factory in Port Elizabeth.
The factory was opened in 1936 by Harvey Firestone Jnr together with the facility’s rst managing director, John Cohill. A year earlier, Harvey had paid £750 for the six-hectare site on the corner of Kempston and Harrower Roads, on what was then the outskirts of the city.
The original production capacity of the factory was 350 car tyres a day, manufactured by 150 employees.
Firestone SA became part of Bridgestone, the world’s largest tyre manufacturer, in 1997, and is one
of only a few companies which can boast an unbroken 80-year history of manufacturing in South Africa.
Today, Bridgestone South Africa’s PE plant covers 43 000 square metres
and employs over 350 people. It has a capacity of 800 tyres a day, ranging from 10kg front tractor tyres to earthmover tyres weighing up to 800kg.
“Bridgestone’s PE plant has been a cornerstone of the South African motor industry,” said plant manager, Keith Gibbs. “We have provided employment for generations of Port Elizabethans and led the way in tyre manufacturing quality and process control.”
Apart from being the only tyre company to manufacture bias truck tyres locally, Bridgestone also has a second plant, based in Brits, which opened in 1971.
“Bridgestone’s South African plants are supported by a vast sales network, including nearly 260 Supa Quick branches,” said 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 said.