Continental boss Nikolai Setzer wants to learn from the sometimes harsh criticism of cuts and closures at some factories. “Of course, there are always things that can be done better,” he told dpa news agency, reconsidering the controversial decisions. Management can also learn from these experiences. Overall, however, he considers the coordination processes, which took place for the most part before he took over as head of the company, to be solid: “We have been as transparent as possible in such a complex situation. In addition, Germany remains a key location for Conti.
The Dax group said last year that some factories could no longer be fully utilized in the medium term. This came as a surprise to a number of employees. The Aachen tire plant should first be closed by the end of 2021. This decision sparked protests: the unions IG BCE and IG Metall did not feel sufficiently involved, and the Premier NRW Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) initially called Continental’s approach “cold capitalism”. The Hanoverians followed suit.
Among other things, Aachen enjoyed a “grace period” for another year. Negotiations with staff representatives then showed that layoffs for operational reasons will be avoided “as far as possible” and that a small group will remain there in 2023. In addition, as many employees as possible should be trained to new jobs. Such programs are also run in other locations.
Internal surveys have shown that staff confidence in the company is very high, Setzer said. Conti, however, could not detach himself from the outward developments. “We have companies in many areas that have changed dramatically, for example from analog to digital – for example with in-car displays,” Setzer explained. “We have products that are just not available anymore, like analog speed displays. We are exposed to a change that we cannot avoid. On the contrary, we follow the market. This can sometimes mean making painful decisions. “
The “Transformation 2019-2029” strategy is moving forward. Discussions on further implementation are being conducted “with an open eye,” Setzer said. “We have negotiated durable solutions with our social partners for all projects. This can mean a substantial change for those concerned.” Germany’s second-largest automotive supplier after Bosch is increasingly expanding its electronics and software business. But the classic tire sector, with which Conti has already grown up, also has potential for Setzer – for example with “smart” models supported by sensors.