The Japanese tyre manufacturer Bridgestone announced, at an extraordinary social and economic committee meeting, the closure of the production lines of its only French factory, established in Béthune since 1961, with the loss of 863 jobs. The factory, not very modern, does not house the production of tyres with high added value (large sizes, demanded by the SUV market for example) and is competing with tyres imported from Asia. In 2018, Bridgestone produced up to 18,000 tyres per day in Béthune. In the summer of 2019, management presented a plan to reduce the volume from 12,000 tyres per day in September 2019 to 9,000 tyres per day in December 2019.
Bridgestone justifies the 'total and definitive cessation of activity at the Béthune plant' as 'the only option that would safeguard the competitiveness of Bridgestone's operations in Europe'. The closure is scheduled for the second quarter of 2021.
The announcement provoked outraged reactions from local politicians and the government has sent two ministers to the site to discuss with unions and management to seek solutions to avoid the closure of the site. An agreement was reached to conduct an expert appraisal and schedule a new discussion meeting on the basis of the commissioned report.