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Bridgestone December 09 www. bus- ex. com 37 and keeping customers in business. " We adopted the policy," he says, " of giving our loyal customers the best possible service, ensuring that their needs were met in as near to the normal way as we could. That way no- one was inconvenienced to any great extent but it did mean that expanding market share by taking on new business was a secondary concern. " From the end users' point of view, mine managers who didn't have a strong relationship with their tyre supplier often found themselves out of stock." To complement the vibrant automotive manufacturing scene in South Africa, three of the world's four largest names in tyre manufacturing have South African factories, largely located in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. Firestone set up its original plant in the ' Detroit of SA' as long ago as 1936. Bridgestone purchased Firestone South Africa in the mid 1990s. Although sounding western, Bridgestone is very much Japanese, as the name is taken from its founder Shorijo Ishibsahi, which translates as ' stone bridge'. This was reversed to Bridgestone, which was established in 1931, shortly before the South African Firestone plant was opened. Today, the Port Elizabeth plant produces fabric and steel belted radials for passenger cars. It also makes tyres for commercial vehicles such as agricultural and buses; and small OTR tyres for mining and earthmoving machinery and lightweight trucks- pick- up trucks like Toyota's HiAce, which locally go by the name of bakkies. At the other end of the country, 50 kilometres to the west of Pretoria, the newer Brits plant specialises in making the BMW run- flat tyre as well as tyres for 18- wheeler trucks and semi trailers, bakkies and all passenger- size tyres. All radial OTR tyres are manufactured in Japan. Bridgestone concentrates on ensuring the correct tyre