Goodyear may downsize if original measures not enough

AKRON, Ohio – The top executive of Goodyear Tire ‘amp; Rubber Co. said yesterday the biggest U.S. tire company will consider more cost cutting this year if measures already taken aren’t enough in a down economy. Akron-based Goodyear in February said it would cut nearly 5,000 jobs this year. Less sales led to a loss of $330 million in the 2008 fourth quarter. In comments made at the company’s annual meeting of shareholders, Goodyear Chairman and CEO Robert Keegan said the company is preparing ‘contingency actions’ beyond various strategies in place, if market conditions further deteriorate. Keegan didn’t specify what those contingency actions may be, or whether they involve more job cuts. Goodyear has about 75,000 employees and makes products in 25 countries. The company expects about a 14 percent reduction in inventory, he said. Keegan said he remains confident in Goodyear’s ability to cope with economic conditions and will rely on several strategies put in place before world markets began showing stress. ‘As we address our market challenges head-on, we are not creating a new path. Rather we will be taking a proven path to the next level,’ he said. Other than lowering costs, keys are development and marketing of new products, building brand strength and generating funds to reinvest in its business, he said. Among the new products is Goodyear’s Assurance Fuel Max tire, which is now available at Goodyear retailers. The company says it can achieve a 4 percent improvement in highway fuel economy. Keegan noted significant decline in auto industry demand, especially in the fourth quarter. The company has been placing a greater emphasis on replacement tires. Goodyear shares lost 55 cents, or 7.3 percent, to $7.02 in early afternoon trading. The company’s shares have traded between $3.17 and $30.10 over the past year.