Bridgestone Corp., backed by funding from the Italian investment agency Invitalia, is planning to invest $57 million in its car and light truck tire plant in Bari, Italy, which the Japanese tire maker earlier had targeted for closure.
Invitalia, the Rome-based agency for inward investment promotion and enterprise development, is providing $19 million in funding for the project, which will upgrade the 52-year-old factory’s tire-assembly machinery and restore capacity to 3.5 million tires a year.
Bridgestone announced its intention in March 2013 to close the plant, citing its production focus on low-range car tires, a segment that increasingly is being served by imports from companies based in emerging nations.
The company reversed itself six months later, after crafting a rescue plan with Italian government and labor union officials.
Bridgestone and Invitalia signed the investment agreement in Rome. Invitalia CEO Domenico Arcuri called the deal «doubly important» because it keeps open an industrial entity that was to be closed and «confirms the effectiveness» of favoring investment in southern Italy. At stake are 800 jobs.
Roberto Mauro, CEO of Bridgestone Italian Manufacturing, said the agreement with Invitalia completes a key component of the rescue plan agreed to last September.
Invitalia said nearly $53 million of the investment package will be used for buying and installing new machinery and ancillaries, with the rest going to general infrastructure upgrades.
Bridgestone did not elaborate on what types of tires will be built at the plant following the investment, nor on what, if any, changes in the labor contract were made.