WASHINGTON (AP) _ Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. announced Tuesday that it will close the Decatur, Ill., plant where most of its recalled tires were made.
The tire maker sent a six-month notice of its plan to representatives of the United Steelworkers of America. It plans to close the plant by Dec. 31.
About 1,500 Bridgestone/Firestone employees and contractors work at the plant.
Last summer, the company recalled all 15-inch ATX and ATX tires and the 15-inch Wilderness AT tires built in Decatur after discovering the high failure rates of those tires. After an internal investigation of what made the tires lose their tread, Bridgestone/Firestone blamed a faulty tire design and a unique manufacturing process at the Decatur plant.
At least 203 deaths and more than 700 injuries have been linked to Firestone tire failures in the United States.
John McQuade, Bridgestone/Firestone division vice president of manufacturing operations, said the company's plants are not running at capacity due to lower customer demand and the economic downturn.
``It just isn't efficient to reduce shifts at all plants or to keep running all of our plants at lowered production levels,'' McQuade said in a news release. ``The most effective way to address this issue is to close one plant and raise production to levels nearing plant capacity at our other facilities.''
The Decatur plant was built in 1942 and designed to make tanks for the Army during World War II. Firestone bought the plant in 1963 and modified the plant to build its tires. It has been in continuous production since and is the oldest of Bridgestone/Firestone's facilities for making tires for cars and light trucks.
``Our entire company is committed to rebuilding this organization and the Firestone brand,'' said Mike Gorey, BFS corporate controller. ``In order to keep that promise, this company must be financially strong and viable. This is a necessary, but painful step to ensure our continued financial health and viability.''