U.S. Tire CEO to French Gov’t: ‘How Stupid Do You Think We Are?’

By Michael James | February 21, 2013 | 7:43 PM EST

Titan International Founder and CEO Maurice M. Taylor Jr. (AP)

(CNSNews.com) – Maurice M. Taylor Jr., founder and CEO of Illinois-based tire manufacturer Titan International, rejected a French government invitation to “start a discussion” over possibly investing in a French tire factory, stating that the union workers there were paid too much for too little work, and remarked, “How stupid do you think we are?”

In the Feb. 8 letter to French Minister for Industrial Renewal Arnaud Montebourg, Taylor said, “I have visited that factory a couple of times. The 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. I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!”

He continued, “Sir, your letter states that you want Titan to start a discussion. How stupid do you think we are? Titan is the one with the money and the talent to produce tires. What does the crazy union have? It has the French government.”

French Minister of Industrial Renewal Arnaud Montebourg. (AP)

“The French farmer wants cheap tires,” said Taylor. “He does not care if the tires are from China or India and these governments are subsidizing them. Your government doesn’t care either: ‘We’re French!’”

In concluding the letter, Taylor said, “You can keep the so-called workers. Titan has no interest in the Amien North factory.”

The tire factory in Amiens, France, is owned by Goodyear and has been losing money for several years.  Taylor and his company had been in negotiations with the factory and its union workers for the last four years to potentially buy the facility, which employs a reported 1,173 workers.

In response to Taylor, French Minister Montebourg, in a letter released to the media, said that the Titan CEO’s comments were “as extreme as they were insulting” and revealed Taylor’s “perfect ignorance of our country and its solid advantages.”

Montebourg further said, "May I point out that Titan, the company you lead, is 20 times smaller than Michelin, our French leader of international influence, and 35 times less profitable?"

Michelin is one of the largest tire manufacturers in the world, and earned a net income of $1.571 billion euros ($2.072 billion U.S.) in 2012, according to NASDAQ.

Titan is one of the top off-road and industrial tire and wheel makers in the United States, and also has facilities in Europe, South America and Asia.  Its 2011 data show it had $1.48 billion in net sales and $232.1 million in gross profit. Founder and CEO Maurice Taylor ran an unsuccessful bid to win the GOP presidential nomination in 1996.