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Goodyear closing several plants Tonawanda plant expected to be spared

NEW YORK -- Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. said today it will close an undisclosed number of plants in various locations, part of a sweeping restructuring aimed at improving its North American tire business and saving up to $1 billion over the next three years.

The Akron, Ohio, company, one of the world's largest tire makers, did not say how many jobs would be affected. It also did not say how many plants it will close or their locations, but added that cutting high-cost capacity will be a key consideration.

Goodyear Dunlop Tires North America, a division of Goodyear, is headquartered in Amherst and has a plant that makes motorcycle and other specialty tires in the Town of Tonawanda. The division employs about 1,300 people.

A union official said the Tonawanda plant doesn't fit the description of high-cost plants that could be shuttered.

"The Dunlop plant is a good, high-performance facility; the guys are good workers there," United Steelworkers District 4 Director William J. Pienta said.

There were no plans he knew of to cut the factory's job count. "As far as I know, we're doing fine," he said.

Union officials said they have known about company plans to sell high-cost facilities, including one in Freeport, Ill., for some time, but the Tonawanda plant isn't among them. The Steelworkers' contract with Goodyear, signed in 2003 after a wrangle over plant closings, expires next year.

Goodyear said it plans to cut high-cost manufacturing capacity between 8 percent and 12 percent, resulting in expected annual savings of $100 million to $150 million. The company also said it would increase sourcing from Asia and seek other ways to boost productivity.

The company said it would record restructuring charges between $150 million and $250 million over the next three years. The company said it is targeting total cost cuts between $750 million and $1 billion by 2008.

Goodyear added it is moving ahead with plans to sell noncore assets and reinvesting the proceeds in the company. On Tuesday, Goodyear said it is mulling the sale of its engineered products business to focus on its tire operations. The sale of its North American farm tire business is pending a union agreement.

Goodyear Chief Executive Robert Keegan, who halted three consecutive years of losses in 2004 by trimming workers, closing plants and selling assets, is making deeper cuts to reduce North American costs that are limiting its competitiveness with rivals such as Bridgestone Corp.

"Our turnaround is on track and will continue to evolve," Keegan said in the statement. "We have a business model and a strategy that is working."

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