Automaker officials voiced concerns Monday about the possible impact of suspended operations at tire maker Bridgestone Corp.’s plant in Kuroiso, Tochigi Prefecture, which caught fire earlier in the day.

An official at Toyota Motor Corp., which receives tires for the Hiace and two other commercial vehicle models from the plant, said manufacturing operations may be affected as the automaker has only several days’ worth of tires in stock.

Hino Motors Ltd., which relies on the plant for tires for big trucks, is considering seeking other suppliers as some tire types in stock at its main plant in Hino, Tokyo, “may run out within two to three days,” an official said.

Nissan Motor Co. was busy confirming its inventory level as it gets tires for 800 cars per month from the plant, while Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus Corp. may increase procurement from other tire makers if operations at the plant continue to be suspended.

Bridgestone has yet to announce when the plant might resume operations. Because the fire broke out in a facility for mixing chemicals and rubber, which is the initial stage of tire production, all operations will be affected unless the mixing facility reopens promptly, industry officials said.

Bridgestone Vice President Isao Togashi apologized for the fire.

“We deeply apologize for the trouble we have caused to people in the vicinity” of the plant, he said at a news conference in Kuroiso.

Nippon Steel rebound

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Nippon Steel Corp. said Monday it expects to resume 90 percent of normal operations at its Nagoya ironworks by the end of September following a gas tank explosion there last week.

Japan’s biggest steelmaker said it will revive operation of two blast furnaces at the ironworks, located in Tokai, Aichi Prefecture, by the middle of the month.

The two blast furnaces were suspended following the explosion Wednesday. One has already resumed operation.

The company said a cutback of 200,000 to 300,000 tons in pig iron production against planned output of 580,000 tons for September appears unavoidable as a result of the explosion.

By the end of the third quarter to Dec. 31, an output cut of around 500,000 tons is likely, the company added.

Nippon Steel President Akio Mimura said the explosion is likely to cut the company’s profit by as much as 30 billion yen.

Company officials said production of core facilities for making hot-rolled steel sheets for auto and electric parts resumed earlier Monday.

Production of steel plates to be used for core auto components like engines will resume soon, the officials said.

The processes of making steel plates and hot-rolled steel used coke gas, which was contained in the 50-meter-high tank that exploded, injuring more than 10 people and sparking a fire that burned overnight.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.