Continental sees learning effects from plant closings

Hanover (dpa) – Continental boss Nikolai Setzer wants to learn from the sometimes violent criticism of the cuts and closings in some plants.

“Of course there are always things that are better can do ”, 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 considers the coordination processes, which largely fell before his move to the top of the company, to be 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 announced last year that some factories could no longer be fully utilized in the medium term. This came as a relative surprise for many 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, and NRW Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) initially called Continental’s approach “cold capitalism”. The Hanoverians, however, followed suit.

Among other things, Aachen received a grace period for another year. Negotiations with employee representatives then revealed that layoffs for operational reasons were avoided “wherever possible” and that a small group 2023 would still stay there. In addition, as many employees as possible should be trained for new jobs. Such programs are also running at other locations.

“High approval ratings from employees”

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. ”

Conti, however, cannot detach himself 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 strategy“ Transformation 2019 – 2029 ”is making headway. The talks on further implementation are being conducted “with an open eye,” said Setzer. “We negotiated viable 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, has potential for Setzer – for example in sensor-supported, “smart” models.

The traditional Hanover-Stöcken plant has become a center for development and recycling -Concepts changed. “Of course it’s a shame that we couldn’t continue producing tires there,” said Setzer. “But the truth also means that we now employ more people in Stöcken than before. And with significantly more highly 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 employ just under 50. 000 of our 193. 000 Employees in Germany », explained Setzer. «We have many competence centers here, in addition to Hanover, Frankfurt and Regensburg among others. Germany remains very important to us because of its technological competence and central functions. ”

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