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Tires and deep fryers: competitiveness in the 2010's

by Bernard Thu Feb 21st, 2013 at 03:20:39 AM EST

Well, it's official. And it's been doing the headlines all over the French media today (Wed. Feb. 20): French workers are lazy, they only work three hours a day, have a full hour lunch break and they expect American businessmen to take over their ailing tire manufacturing plant. "How stupid do you think we are?" says Maurice Taylor, aka "The Grizz," CEO of Titan International.

Taylor had been approached by Arnaud Montebourg, Minister of Industrial Renewal in the French government, known for his outspoken ways.

U.S. CEO ridicules French workers as time-wasting - CBS News

Taylor, who is nicknamed "The Grizz," wrote the no-holds-barred letter to French Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg to explain why his company wouldn't buy part of an ailing Goodyear factory in Amiens. The ministry confirmed the letter as authentic however attempts to obtain comment from Titan have been unsuccessful.

"I have visited the factory a couple of times," the letter date Feb. 8 reads, according to a copy published Wednesday in Les Echos newspaper.

"The French workforce gets paid high wages but only work for 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!"

Tough talking indeed from The Grizz.

U.S. CEO ridicules French workers as time-wasting - CBS News

Titan International plays on the hard reputation of its CEO, who also made an attempt to run for U.S. President in 1996 for the Republicans. The company's website features a biography explaining that the nickname comes from his "tough negotiating style" in Washington as well as a logo and sound of a roaring grizzly bear wearing shades.

front-paged by afew

As it happens, during Taylor's visit, the plant has been undergoing a partial shutdown and was operating on a reduced schedule. Obviously, the workers there didn't learn the "Look busy! The boss is visiting!" attitude.

In Mr Taylor's world, Old Europe is full of beret wearing socialist moochers, so say the serious media; heck, its even contaminating the US Executive Branch:

Broken, we're telling you...

The news made headlines all over the French media today: the usual Very Serious Economists gravely explained that we are "not competitive" and we need to "reform", or else it's all going to China...

Montebourg's answer?

I see your grizzly and I raise you... an Oprah!

Oprah boosts Made in France in praising chip fryer to 16 million Twitter followers - The Connexion

SHARES in French electrical manufacturer Seb have soared after one of their chip-fryers - the T-Fal Actifry - was boosted by US TV superstar Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah posted a picture on Twitter of her with the Made in France machine saying: "This machine ..T-Fal actifry has changed my life. And they're not paying me to say it."

Shares in Seb - which owns the Tefal brand - increased 5.12% in just a couple of hours.

Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg greeted the news on Twitter saying the fat-free fryer was made in France by Seb at Is-sur-Tille (21) in Bourgogne.
As it happens, SEB (Société d'Emboutissage de Bourgogne) who owns the T-Fal brand had based its strategy in the small appliance market on innovation and, yes, manufacturing in France, at least for the high end products (it also has manufacturing in Asia). Innovation pays off, who knew?

Montebourg actually remarked that French may know a thing or two about tire manufacturing.

As for the "two-hour" lunch break, it may have been the norm until the 1960s, but the average duration is now about 36 minutes, down from 1 hour 38 thirty five year ago.

So we may have failed the grizzly-cum-failed- Repub-candidate test, but Oprah's on our side :)

I'll have to learn how to repost a tweet...
by Bernard (bernard) on Wed Feb 20th, 2013 at 05:27:14 PM EST
The Grizz promised to take his activity to India where he would pay low wages, and then supply all the tyres France needs.

It's crude and stupid, but it's a clear statement of what the "competitiveness" theme is all about. Globalisation is improved communications plus a goldmine of cheap labour for capital.

Daniel Schneidermann yesterday:

Arrêt sur images - Thank you, the grizz Arrêt sur images - Thank you, the Grizz
La crudité de ce discours, de cette pensée, est habituellement ensevelie sous le savoir-faire lénifiant des marchands de pommade, pardon, des communicants, et grâce à la complicité des blanchisseurs médiatiques officiels. ... Il dévoile la mondialisation comme elle est. Il est, pour ce faire, mille fois plus efficace que tous les films de Michael Moore. Thank you, the Grizz.The crudeness of the discourse, of this way of thinking, is usually buried in the soothing know-how of the ointment merchants, sorry, communicators, and thanks to the complicity of the official media launderers. ... [Taylor] reveals globalization as it is. He is a thousand times more efficient at this than all the films of Michael Moore. Thank you, the Grizz.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Feb 21st, 2013 at 02:08:21 AM EST
From Montebourg's reply to Taylor:

Montebourg dénonce les propos "extrémistes" du PDG de Titan Montebourg attacks the "extremist" remarks of Titan CEO
(Puis-je vous rappeler que) Titan, l'entreprise que vous dirigez est vingt fois plus petite que Michelin, notre leader technologique français à rayonnement international, et trente-cinq fois moins rentable ?(May I remind you that) Titan, the company that you head is twenty times smaller than Michelin, our world-class French technological leader, and thirty-five times less profitable?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Feb 21st, 2013 at 02:20:47 AM EST
from January, The Economist reveals itself more clearly than ever as an extremist rag.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Feb 21st, 2013 at 02:28:32 AM EST
"you make it sound like a bad thing"

Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Feb 21st, 2013 at 04:47:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]

You say that like it's a bad thing

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 22nd, 2013 at 02:12:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It could be a Daily Mail front page.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Feb 22nd, 2013 at 02:12:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Titan already has several European plants, including one in France, so that can't really be the problem.

Titan Steel Wheels Ltd - UK
Titan Distribution (UK) Ltd - UK
Italtractor ITM SpA - ITALY
Titan Italia SpA - ITALY
Titan Intertractor GmbH - GERMANY
Titan France SAS - FRANCE
Pyrsa Piezas Y Rodayes S.A. - SPAIN

My guess is that the plant is for some reason not actually competitive, and he's just using this as an excuse to be a jerk.

by asdf on Thu Feb 21st, 2013 at 06:21:11 PM EST
Titan France SAS doesn't make tyres, but wheels for tractors and farm machines, and also imports spare parts. France is a major agricultural country with a subsidy-protected farm sector, which helps keep industrial supply of parts for the sector out of global competition.

Tyre manufacture, otoh, is extremely open to cut-throat competition. Taylor's letter said he would "buy an Indian company and pay the workers less than an euro an hour". In those conditions, no European tyre manufacturer can survive, except through quality and innovation. Which don't appear to be on Taylor's schedule. He's looking to pick up plant with first-world infrastructure behind it, and produce second-rate tyres with low labour costs. Free lunch? Or just standard locust meal?

But it remains perfectly true that Taylor is not just a jerk but a hypocrite, since he runs companies in Europe.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 22nd, 2013 at 02:09:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Coca-Cola defends 'French way' in row with US tycoon - FRANCE - FRANCE 24

The CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, the largest non-alcoholic beverage manufacturer in France, has waded into a transatlantic row between France's Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg and US tyre tycoon Maurice Taylor, who claimed that French workers were too expensive and only worked three hours a day. 

Tristan Farabet, who heads Coca-Cola's French operations, appeared to defend Montebourg, telling the minister in a letter that the soft drink giant "was happy to invest in France, for over 90 years".

"[Coca-Cola] hopes to more actively promote the attractiveness of the French territory to foreign companies," Farabet wrote, making direct reference to a verbal dispute that began last week.

Minister rejects anti-France `falsehoods' - FT.com

But brandishing a stack of economic data to support his claims of France's attractiveness to foreign money, as well as a letter of support from the boss of Coca-Cola's French operations, Mr Montebourg says: "It is important that the press sticks to the facts because it is the press that is read by investors. And if you look at the facts, they speak for themselves."

He cites a survey carried by Ernst & Young last year that listed France as the most attractive country in Europe to foreign industrial investors, outstripping even the UK. The ratio of foreign investment to GDP, he points out, was 39 per cent in France last year, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, compared with 23 per cent in the US and 20 per cent in Germany.

by Bernard (bernard) on Wed Feb 27th, 2013 at 12:44:38 PM EST
Mr Montebourg says: "It is important that the press sticks to the facts because it is the press that is read by investors. "

Is he implying that it's only clowns like Grillo who read balance sheets? Everyone else relies on the press?

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Feb 27th, 2013 at 12:52:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That strikes me as a perfectly reasonable leading-order model of investor behavior.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 27th, 2013 at 01:00:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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