COOPER Tire & Rubber Company Europe says it intends to remain in Melksham, but that the company needs to look to the future.

The company has begun an eight-week consultation period with employees and unions to explore ceasing light vehicle tyre production at Melksham over a 10-month period.

The company says that light vehicle tyres for 4x4s, SUVs, vans and cars no longer produced in Melksham may come from other global sites in the USA, China, Mexico and Serbia.

The loss of the car tyres division is likely to lead to up to 300 redundancies from a 732-strong workforce.

Melksham will remain the home of Cooper Tire Europe’s headquarters, sales and marketing offices, Europe Technical Centre and materials business. The firm says it is expected that production of motorsports and motorcycle tyres will also continue in Melksham.

On Wednesday general manager Jaap van Wessum, 50, said their goal is to ensure Cooper Tire Europe is best placed for future success in a cost-competitive, globalised environment.

He said: “We know the prospect of making positions redundant is difficult for our colleagues and the local community to consider.

“Yet, for Cooper Tire Europe to thrive into the long-range future, remaining a large Melksham-based employer, and meeting our obligations, we must explore obtaining light vehicle tyres from locations other than Melksham.

“Pending consultation, if positions are made redundant, Cooper will remain committed to doing all we can to support those employees who may potentially be affected.

“We will be consulting with our recognised trade union, Unite, and other employee representatives, and have arranged additional support for affected colleagues.

“We will work closely with Wiltshire Council and the Department for Work and Pensions to provide the best possible support to our colleagues and community.

“It is essential for Cooper to be globally competitive in the tyre industry. To deliver on our strategic growth objectives, we must produce quality light vehicle tyres in high volumes and at a competitive cost.

“Unfortunately, the Melksham site is an older, smaller facility that does not offer economies of scale and it is the highest cost facility in the global Cooper network.

“Due to facility age and location in the centre of town, it is our current view, subject to consultation, that it is not economically feasible to modernise or expand there for light vehicle tyre production.

“It is important to underscore that if we ultimately cease light vehicle tyre production in Melksham, Cooper is not leaving the Melksham community.

“It is the home of Cooper Tire Europe’s headquarters, sales and marketing offices, Europe Technical Centre, and materials business.

“We plan to continue manufacturing specialised motorsports and motorcycle tyres at the Melksham plant. If redundancies occur, Cooper Tire Europe will still employ hundreds locally and continue to honour its existing obligations.”