Continental boss Nikolai Setzer wants to learn from the sometimes severe criticism of the cuts and closings in some plants. “Of course there are always things that can be done better,” he told the news agencies dpa and dpa-AFX, looking back on the controversial decisions. Management can also learn from these experiences. Overall, however, he thinks the coordination processes, which for the most part fell before his move to the top of the company, are solid: “We were as transparent as possible in such a complex situation.” In addition, Germany as a location as a whole remains central to Conti.
The Dax group had announced last year that some factories could no longer be fully utilized in the medium term. This came as a relative surprise for a number of employees. The tire plant in Aachen should initially be closed by the end of 2021. The move sparked protests: The trade unions IG BCE and IG Metall did not feel sufficiently involved, North Rhine-Westphalia Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) initially called Continental’s approach “cold capitalism”. However, the Hanoverians followed suit.
High approval ratings
Among other things, Aachen received a grace period for another year. Negotiations with employee representatives then showed that there will be no redundancies “wherever possible” and that a small group will remain there in 2023. In addition, as many employees as possible should be trained for new jobs. Such programs are also running at other locations.
Internal surveys showed that the workforce’s trust in the company is very high, Setzer emphasized: “We have a high level of approval, both from managers and employees. Of course, there are always points of criticism and aspects that can be improved. And We look at them clearly too. “
Conti, however, cannot break away from external developments. “We have businesses in many areas that have changed dramatically, for example from analog to digital – for example with the displays in the car,” explained Setzer. “We have some products that are simply no longer available, such as analog speed displays. We are exposed to a change that we cannot avoid. On the contrary, we go with the market. That can mean sometimes making painful decisions.”
The “Transformation 2019-2029” strategy is making progress. The discussions about further implementation are being conducted “with an open eye,” says Setzer. “We have negotiated workable solutions with our social partners for all projects. That can mean a substantial change for those affected.”
The second largest German automotive supplier after Bosch is increasingly expanding its electronics and software business. But the classic tire business, with which Conti once grew up, also has potential for Setzer – for example with sensor-supported, “smart” models.
Germany remains important
The traditional plant in Hanover-Stcken has turned into a center for development and recycling concepts. “Of course it’s a shame that we weren’t able to continue producing tires there,” said Setzer. “But the truth also means that we now employ more employees in lumps than before. And, on top of that, with significantly more qualified jobs.”
Germany will continue to play an important role as Conti’s home location – even after the drive division has been spun off into the new Vitesco company. “After the spin-off from Vitesco Technologies, we now employ almost 50,000 of our 193,000 employees in Germany,” explained Setzer. “We have many competence centers here, in addition to Hanover, including Frankfurt and Regensburg. Germany is very important to us because of its technological competence and central functions.” (dpa / swi)
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