The first Léonard retreads, created by Mobivia and Black Star, leave the former Bridgestone site in Béthune – Le Journal des Entreprises
In Béthune in Pas-de-Calais, the Bridgestone site has come back to life. Closed in 2020, the tire factory now houses the production lines of Léonard, the brand of retreaded tires for light vehicles launched by the northern group Mobivia (€3.4 billion in turnover, 23,300 employees), and the company Lyon-based Black Star, which has specialized in second-life tires since 1979. The latter is now changing scale, thanks to this new equipment. “For trucks and buses, retreaded tires represent 40% of the market. This is already a well-established practice, and a niche market in which Black Star is a recognized player. European countries have almost all disappeared in recent decades, competition from tires produced in low-cost countries being too strong”, explains Laurent Cabassu, the general manager of Black Star, which is preparing to increase from 3 million to 30 million euros in turnover from Leonardo’s first year.
The story of this new brand is above all that of a beautiful industrial synergy. When the closure of the Bridgestone site was announced, the interests of Black Star and Mobivia converged: the first was looking for a site to develop its light vehicle business, the second was looking to upgrade the approximately 14 million of used tires collected each year in the workshops of its Norauto, Midas and Carter Cash brands.
Bought 60% by Mobivia, Black Star is now able to take over the site, which Bridgestone leaves well equipped with expensive machines. “A tire factory involves hundreds of millions of euros of investment. Bridgestone was very generous when they left, they left us a lot of equipment, without which the project would not have been possible. No one in the community does not have the means to invest such sums to make retreads”, slips Laurent Houvenaghel, at the helm of Iwip, the “Circular Economy” division of Mobivia, which oversaw the project. In total, the investment is under control for Mobivia, which estimates the total cost of refurbishing and equipping its factory, which occupies 45,000 m² of the approximately 160,000 m² of wasteland at 8 million euros. Bridgestone.
One million tires a year
The site, which employs around sixty people, including around thirty former Bridgestone employees, is in the process of ramping up. From 600 tires per day today, production should gradually increase to 1,000 tires per day, to reach one million tires per year by 2026. By then, the site will employ 200 people.
After the marketing of ten thousand parts as a test, which met with great success, Black Star is confident in the success of its Léonard range, which combines eco-responsibility and low prices. With a carbon footprint 63% lower than a new tire, thanks to the recovery of 80% of the structure of the original tire, of which only the rubber is changed. And in the end, performance comparable to high-end references, for a 30% lower selling price.
The brand will be distributed, from the end of April, in the brands of the Mobivia, Norauto, Midas, and Carter Cash network, before being, from June, offered to competing networks.