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Avon to close UK tyre factory

Cooper Tire & Rubber – maker of Avon tyres, which became a subsidiary of Goodyear in 2021 – is to close its factory in Melksham. This means the last remaining motorcycle tyre production facility in the UK will be gone, probably by the end of 2023.

The Melksham factory has a long history with Avon, expanding rapidly in the 1950s and ‘60s with investment in new tyre technology and production techniques. By the ‘60s it was producing 1.5 million car and motorcycle tyres a year, as well as being a major employer for this small market town in rural Wiltshire. However, recent years have seen the site shrink as parent company Cooper began to move production elsewhere – car and SUV tyre production was moved to mainland Europe in 2018.

At that time, Cooper Tire Europe’s general manager Jaap van Wessum reassured bikers that it would carry on making motorcycle tyres in Britain. “We plan to keep the production of Avon motorcycle tyres in Melksham and may have the opportunity to grow the business.” But in the second quarter of 2022 new parent Goodyear approved a global streamlining plan, of which this latest announcement is likely to be just one fall out.
Cooper has begun a consultation process with Melksham’s 350 employees, who now face redundancy.

BMF Chair Jim Freeman said: “Tyre manufacture is a global business, so a takeover by Goodyear was likely to lead to rationalisation. The parallel with other business’ , ranging from brewing to chocolate, is inescapable. The Avon brand has had a long history, going back to the glory years in the ‘50s and ‘60s, when they were at the forefront of innovation, with ‘cling’ rubber compounds. Unfortunately, the focus of development moved elsewhere, in more recent times. I hope that the impact on Melksham will be minimised, as far as possible.”

Written by Peter Henshaw

Images courtesy of Sportsbike shop/Joel Blevins