FRANCE: Titan CEO shows 'perfect ignorance of country': Arnaud Montebourg
France has launched a blistering attack on the head of Titan International, Maurice Taylor, as the increasingly bitter war of words surrounding the CEO's apparently inflammatory comments shows no sign of abating.
A letter sent by Taylor to French Economics Redevelopment Minister, Arnaud Montebourg, in which he appears to lambast the attitude of the country's workforce, following Titan's withdrawal from any Goodyear Amiens Nord bid, has provoked cold fury from Paris, which denounced the CEO's views as showing "a perfect ignorance of our country."
Taylor was not immediately available for comment when just-auto attempted to contact him in Florida, but overnight reports in France indicate the chief executive is maintaining the letter was not made public by him.
That has not stopped Montebourg from issuing a furious riposte however, in his own letter addressed to Taylor, in which the Minister notes US companies are the largest overseas investors in France, with some 4,200 operating.
"Your extreme, as well as insulting, remarks demonstrate a perfect ignorance of what our country is about, such as its global attraction and links with the US," said Montebourg. "But above all, as much as your disparaging and ridiculous suggestions, these business know and appreciate the French workforce, its commitment and talent.
"Can I remind you that Titan, the business you run, is 20 times smaller than Michelin, our international technological leader and 35 times less profitable.
"France is proud to welcome American investment [and] our two countries are linked by an ancient and passionate friendship. We French will never forget the sacrifice of young American soldiers on the beaches of Normandy to liberate us from Nazism in 1944."
A spokeswoman for the Economics Minister in Paris told just-auto Taylor's letter made reference to using Indian workers and paying them EUR1 (US$1.32) per hour, but Montebourg specifically warned against so-called 'dumping' techniques.
"You raise your intention to exploit workers in certain countries to flood our markets," said the Minister. "I have to tell you this short term, reprehensible calculation will come up, sooner or later, against a justifiable reaction.
"Such is the case already that France and its allies are organising themselves against dumping. In the meantime, rest assured, I will be looking with redoubled zeal at your imported tyres."
Goodyear plans to close its Amiens Nord factory in France with the potential loss of almost 1,200 jobs, a move that has incensed unions, notably the hardline CGT labour body, with the French government asking its Agence Francaise des Investissements Internationaux to seek a buyer.
For its part the CGT, which claims to represent 80% of the Goodyear Amiens Nord workforce, has denounced Taylor's comments as "an insult, not only to workers [but to] democracy," representing what the union maintains is the state of mind of multinationals.
"If there were still any naive people with regard to the attitude of multinational directors, we have the confirmation by letter of what they are thinking," said CGT secretary-general, Bernard Thibault.