WORLDPOST
02/21/2013 05:32 pm ET

Arnaud Montebourg, French Minister, Slams U.S. Tire Tycoon Maurice Taylor Over Insulting Letter

If Maurice Taylor was thinking of vacationing in France any time soon, then he'll likely have to make new plans. The American tire tycoon became France's new public enemy No. 1 after his scathing remarks about the French work ethic, and on Thursday, a French government minister served the rubber baron with an equally scathing reply.

"Your extremist and insulting remarks are a testament to a perfect ignorance about our country," industry renewal minister Arnaud Montebourg wrote Taylor. "Can I remind you that Titan, the company you head is 20 times smaller than Michelin, the French technology leader with a global reach, and 35 times more profitable? That shows the extent that Titan could have learnt and gained enormously from a French base,"

The angry French reply comes in the wake of a letter sent by Taylor, nicknamed The Grizz for his negotiating style, to the French government about Titan's possible interest in a Goodyear factory in the city of Amiens.

In the Feb. 8 letter, Taylor wrote:

The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three.

...

Titan is going to buy a Chinese tire company or an Indian one, pay less than one Euro per hour wage and ship all the tires France needs. You can keep the so-called workers. Titan has no interest in the Amien North factory.

Both letters were published in the French financial daily Les Echos.

Reuters explains that Titan discussed the purchase of the Goodyear plant's tire section last year, but the plan fell through after negotiations with a union failed.

The Associated Press puts the tire row in perspective:

Figures from the Organization for the Economic Co-operation and Development show that France is riding high in the top ten of the most productive European countries. However, analysts and politicians across Europe are becoming increasingly concerned that France, Europe's second-largest economy after Germany, is rapidly losing its competiveness. The exchange of letters has been played out on a broader landscape of rising unemployment and fears that French industry will fall further behind as its economy slumps.

As a parting shot, Montebourg let Taylor know who'd get the last laugh. In the final remarks of his note, the industry minister warned: "In the meantime, rest assured that you can count on me to have the competent government agencies survey your imported tires with a redoubled zeal."

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