Edouard Michelin, “What we did was inept”
In an interview with the rather left-wing daily paper “Liberation” Edouard Michelin gave his comment on the so-called “Michelin Affair”. On 8th September the group reported a 20 p.c.
rise in its half-yearly profits while at the same time declaring that it wanted to shed 7,500 employees in European factories within three years. The Michelin boss attributes the unusually fierce public reaction, by French politicians in particular, to insufficient public discussion. It has to be possible, he argued, to take the right entrepreneurial measures in time to achieve a rapid improvement in productivity, which is 15 to 20 p.
c. below that of the group’s main competitors, Bridgestone and Goodyear. And the only way to do that, he claimed, is through accelerated growth on the basis of a new sales policy and through job cuts.
Edouard Michelin reminded his critics that in the last twenty years the group had twice been faced with extinction, that it had needed to lose 25,000 employees in France and in spite of that had issued only 186 dismissal notices. Asked about the “Lex Michelin” (a change of law to accommodate the “Michelin case”, dealing with the application for state aid to facilitate social plans), Edouard Michelin pointed out that the group had indeed received a French state subsidy for its social plans in the past amounting to four or five billion francs, but that at the same time the French state had received 45 billion francs in social contributions, taxes and other levies. Today the group still makes 30 p.
c. of total investments within France, he continued, and retains 30 p.c.
of the production capacity in the country, although the domestic market takes only 15 p.c. of total sales.
Though keen to dust off certain parts of the company, he said, he wants to preserve its culture, personality and customs. As the head of a “family business” he sees himself as “permanently accountable” and cannot afford not to make long-term plans, because he is only too well aware of having to defend his decisions also in five or ten years’ time. On the question of worldwide merger plans Edouard Michelin said that his company is in a position “to play an active part.
Our gaze is directed towards Asia. Michelin has a talent for growth.”.