Bridgestone to accelerate its footprint in China

A visitor takes photos of ties manufactured by Bridgestone Corp, the Japanese tire and rubber producer in Beijing, on September 24, 2021. [Photo provided to]

Bridgestone Corp, the Japanese tire and rubber manufacturer, plans to build more partnerships with domestic automakers and supply customized tires for China's fast-growing electric vehicle market during the country's 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25), said a senior executive.

"With China introducing policy measures to boost high-quality growth, we see strong market potential in the country's EV sector," said Yasuhiro Morita, president and CEO of Bridgestone (China) Investment Co Ltd.

For example, Hainan, the scenic island province, has been promoting the use of clean energy vehicles, aiming to completely phase out the sales of conventional fuel-based vehicles by 2030.

Eager to enhance its market presence, Bridgestone recently announced several partnerships with China's EV makers and applied its green technology to several new car models.

The Japanese tire maker announced cooperation with Chinese EV startups Xpeng in May. Under this partnership, Bridgestone provides tires for two types of vehicles manufactured by Xpeng. In addition to pursuing reduced rolling resistance, these tires improve fuel efficiency and results in fewer CO2 emissions.

As China aims to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, Morita said the group will continue introducing more energy-saving products and environmental technologies in the country to reduce CO2 emissions.

After switching 100 percent of the electricity sourced from outside providers to renewable energy to power its four tire plants in Japan in July, Bridgestone currently is installing solar power generation facilities in its factories in China, and will start purchasing green electricity to further cut carbon footprint during its production.

Supported by more than 5,300 employees, Bridgestone currently runs four manufacturing bases and two research and development facilities across China.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital upgrade of brand and enhancement of consumer experience, Morita said digitalization will remain a hot topic as the automotive industry evolves toward CASE (Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric) and MaaS, (Mobility as a Service) in the coming years.

The executive said therefore the company will transform its business operations to focus on solutions and integrating innovative technologies to meet the needs and expectations of the next generation of drivers in both Chinese and global markets.

"When technology companies strive for carbon neutrality, they will help automakers first save on energy and reduce emissions themselves," said Sun Fuquan, vice-president of Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development.

Pushed by digital solutions and market demand, he said both China's new vehicle market and the used-car segment will see stable growth in the long run.

China's auto sales rose 8.7 percent year-on-year to 18.62 million units in the first three quarters of 2021. In the meantime, sales of passenger vehicles increased 11 percent year-on-year to 14.86 million units, data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers showed.