Titan is the one with the money and the talent to produce tires. What does the crazy union have? It has the French government.
Okay, that’s direct, but it’s not the most direct thing Maurice Taylor said regarding the possibility of investing in a France-based tire manufacturer.
France’s finance minister, Arnaud Montebourg, recently received and then presumably leaked a letter from Taylor in which he repeatedly slams French industry and declares that he has no interest in hiring French workers.
“Titan is going to buy a Chinese tire company or an Indian one, pay less than one Euro per hour wage and ship all the tires France needs… You can keep the so-called workers.” In response, Montebourg compared Titan unfavorably to the Maginot Line, which would stand against any German tank assault.
No wait, that’s wrong, he compared Titan unfavorably to Michelin. Given that Titan’s been around for twenty years, that’s probably just as silly a comparison.
It’s hard to find someone to root for in this exchange, which seems to combine the worst red-meat stereotypes of insanely greedy corporate adventurists willing to have tires made by slave labor if necessary and complacent glass-tower mandarins cheerfully bleeding a country dry to protect their union voters until the very last possible minute. The enthusiast driver in me is on the side of the French, insofar as Michelin makes a number of outstanding performance tires and I have yet to see a Chinese tire worth entering in a demolition derby. It’s easy to forget that tires like the Pilot Sport PS2 are in part subsidized by the research and industrial capacity that come along with having a big chunk of the plain-vanilla transport industry. I also sleep better at night knowing that Chinese tires are fairly rare on the roads of the United States, since I have to drive on those roads.
We’ll continue to monitor the spat to see if anyone eats his words, but I wouldn’t look for that to happen. Titan will make its tires as cheaply as possible, and the French government won’t consider anything but token protectionist efforts. Now might be a good time to stock up on Pilot Cups, and don’t forget to store them away from sunlight and fresh air.
For your reference, here is the full text of the communication:
Dear Mr. Montebourg:
I have just returned to the United States from Australia where I have been for the past few weeks on business; therefore, my apologies for answering your letter dated 31 January 2013.
I appreciate your thinking that your Ministry is protecting industrial activities and jobs in France. I and Titan have a 40-year history of buying closed factories and companies, losing millions of dollars and turning them around to create a good business, paying good wages. Goodyear tried for over four years to save part of the Amiens jobs that are some of the highest paid, but the French unions and French government did nothing but talk.
I have visited the factory a couple of times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three, and work for three. I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!
The Chinese are shipping tires into France – really all over Europe – and yet you do nothing. In five years, Michelin won’t be able to produce tire in France. France will lose its industrial business because government is more government.
Sir, your letter states you want Titan to start a discussion. How stupid do you think we are? Titan is the one with money and talent to produce tires. What does the crazy union have? It has the French government. The French farmer wants cheap tire. He does not care if the tires are from China or India and governments are subsidizing them. Your government doesn’t care either. “We’re French!”
The US government is not much better than the French. Titan had to pay millions to Washington lawyers to sue the Chinese tire companies because of their subsidizing. Titan won. The government collects the duties. We don’t get the duties, the government does.
Titan is going to buy a Chinese tire company or an Indian one, pay less than one Euro per hour and ship all the tires France needs. You can keep the so-called workers. Titan has no interest in the Amien North factory.
Best regards, Maurice M. Taylor, Jr. Chairman and CEO
BY ROB WILE