Mr. Xavier Bertrand, a former minister who now leads the Hauts-de-France region and plans to run against President Mr. Emmanuel Macron in 2022, is calling for the French government to invest in a Bridgestone tire plant threatened with closure. The Japanese tire giant announced on September 16 that it planned to cease production at its facility in Bethune, northern France, which employs 863 workers. According to Bridgestone, the closure was necessary due to the “market situation” and the fact that the plant had not been competitive for several years. The French government immediately criticized the move.
Mr. Bertrand’s recent call to save the plant has added pressure on the government to prevent an outright closure of the plant, according to a Reuters report.
Speaking to Europe 1 radio, Mr. Bertrand said “everything must be done” to avoid the plant being closed down, invoking a 2013 precedent in which Italy invested in a Bridgestone plant to avert closure and save 60% of the jobs at the facility. Meanwhile, another guest on the radio show, management expert Mr. Raymond Soubie, said the Hauts-de-France region should have helped the plant to transform its economic model upstream. "This is a terrible blow for the region and of course for the employees, but deep down, everyone has known for years that the manufacture of Bridgestone was tires which were not high-end tires and which, little by little , came out of the market ", insisted Mr. Soubie, former social advisor to Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy and president of the social strategy consulting group Alixio. He explained that the problem with the Bridgestone plant was not due to the coronavirus pandemic, but in fact, predates it.