Heated arguments between Hanover and Traiskirchen
Trials, tribulations and shady deals have, in recent years, been the order of the day in the contacts between the Corporation’s management in Hanover and the Semperit GmbH subsidiary in Vienna. On the one hand, due mostly to the fighting spirit of a large part of the personnel, we had the image of a totally unruly company in Traiskirchen, and on the other hand the image of those at the top of the Corporation; not to be trusted any further than they could be thrown. Like the devil fears holy water, the Austrian associates fear the physicist Hubertus von Grünberg who, first as the Continental Corporation’s CEO and now as a sort of Supervisory Superintendent, is spending a lot of time making life impossible for the plant in Traiskirchen.
As far as the Austrians are concerned, there can be no possible justification for these measures, and closure of the plant would be seen as a token of utter ingratitude, because Semperit Traiskirchen has amply rewarded the Corporation with returns on their previous investments. The question today is: can Traiskirchen be saved? The company offers employment to 1,500 associates, manufacturing products for a world market under pressure due to overcapacity. The bitter truth is this: the plant is no longer needed, however, the brand is, and so is the market.
What they have not quite figured out yet, is how to lose the one and keep the others. Employees point to the closure, at the beginning of the eighties, of the Firestone Plant in Pratteln, Switzerland, which consequently reduced the then market leader to a mere “also ran”. The same fate will befall the Continental Corporation, is the suggestion in Vienna.
But the reality may be quite different. At that time, Firestone had withdrawn from the market in the heat of its struggle for survival, tyres had to be ordered by the container load from the Spanish or French plant, the infrastructure had gone, and so had the distribution service. If lights go out in Traiskirchen today, the impact on the market may be close to zero.
Austria will be in turmoil but once the telephones of the works council members have been cut, the interest of the public and the press will die down, and so will the interest of the politicians, who are trying to capitalise on the situation, pretending they are fighting to keep the jobs. It will be like in any obituary: fought, hoped and lost. Matters should be approached from a different angle: ranting and raving does not create new jobs.